How far Minnesota Wild G Devan Dubnyk has come might be difficult for some to fathom.
Despite being the second-highest goaltender selected in the 2004 NHL Draft and starting his career impressively with the Edmonton Oilers, Dubynk’s performance declined rapidly in 2013. And, in seemingly an instant, he found himself with the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate. After being traded again to Montreal, Dubnyk decided to leave the team and go home to be with his wife and newborn son. He signed a one year deal with the Arizona Coyotes after the season, but he had practically fallen off the face of the Earth by this point.
However, it was his all-time low in Arizona that proved to be the turning point for the Regina, SK native. Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke helped Dubnyk rediscover his swagger and he returned to form. Though he was improving vastly, the Coyotes struggled in 2014-15 and they decided to give Dubnyk a chance at competitiveness with a trade to Minnesota in January 2015.
The 28-year-old could not have arrived at a better time for the Wild, who were eight points out of a playoff spot at the time. His chance for redemption finally having arrived, Dubnyk shutout the Buffalo Sabres in his Wild debut and went a stellar 27-9-1 with a 1.78 GAA in the season’s second half. With their goaltending issue solidified, Minnesota surged to one of the West’s two Wild Card spots and the team upset the heavily favored St. Louis Blues in the WCQF. Though the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks ended Minnesota’s miracle season in the next round, it did not take away from Dubnyk’s incredible comeback.
At the 2015 NHL Awards, the League rewarded Dubnyk’s unrelenting spirit with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication. He also finished third in Vezina Trophy voting and fourth in Hart Memorial Trophy voting. In his acceptance speech Dubnyk thanked the Coyotes for doing what was best for him and his family and the Wild for giving him a chance. One thing was certain, Dubnyk had returned, and Minnesota locked him up for six years and $26 million.
Though he now has a permanent home in Minneapolis, Dubnyk is adding still another chapter to his career. In his first full season with the Wild he was named an NHL All-Star for the first time and again propelled Minnesota to the postseason, where they were downed by the powerhouse Dallas Stars, 4-2.
The Wild did not have a lot of expectations entering this season, but the team is proving everyone wrong. Minnesota just recently had a 12 game winning streak snapped and sit at second in the Western Conference. Dubnyk has been the story of the year for upstart team, currently leading all NHL goaltenders with a .941 Save %, 1.75 GAA and 5 shutouts. Additionally, his 19 wins are a 4-way tie for second. If the Vezina Trophy was awarded today, Dubnyk would almost certainly be the winner and you can also bet that his name is in Hart talks as well.
Everybody loves a good comeback story, and in all of sports over the past couple years, Dubynk’s may be the best of them all. His heart and determination to overcome everything that was thrown his way are truly admirable. And, at only 30, Dubnyk has nowhere to go but up.
2016-17 NHL Mid-season Awards
2016-17 thus far has been a very exciting season for the National Hockey League. Surprise teams have dominated, superstars have lit up the scoring sheet and young guns have cemented their place. With the All-Star Game now over and done with, the season has reached its symbolic halfway point. I’ll attempt to give the best predictions I can for the NHL awards if they were handed out today.
Calder Trophy: Patrik Laine- Winnipeg Jets
In a season that was supposed to be all about 2016’s top draft pick Auston Matthews, no.2 selection Patrik Laine has done nothing but defy that. Though he has only 40 points to Matthews’ 39, Laine has been the far better rookie in the first half of the season, recording two hatricks and scoring 22 goals and 18 assists. Equally impressive is how Laine has bounced back from injury. On Jan.7 against Buffalo, the 18-year-old was absolutely rocked by Jake McCabe after skating through center ice with his head down. Laine received a concussion and missed eight contests. The Finn proved he hadn’t missed a beat upon returning, recording an assist in his first game back and a goal in the next. Matthews is undoubtedly the more marquee name of the two, but he has been largely outclassed by the man taken immediately behind him. In the hunt: Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski, Matt Murray.
Jack Adams Award: John Tortorella- Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets were not pegged to do very much this year as far as preseason predictions went, but that’s what makes the head-turning story of the team this season so remarkable. If the season ended today, Columbus would enter the playoffs as the third seed in the entire League. Defying nearly every expectation they had, the Jackets have gotten stellar goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and terrific all-around production from their entire lineup. Cam Atkinson, Zach Werinski, captain Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg have steadied the ship at the Nationwide Arena. The man behind the bench has also been an integral piece. Over the past few seasons, John Tortorella’s smart style has been overshadowed by his hot temper, and his image has faded as a result. But, this season has proven to fans across the League that Torts is still an intelligent coach who knows how to get the best out of his entire team, and he has helped turn Columbus from afterthoughts to the limelight of the NHL. Bruce Boudreau and the Minnesota Wild have also had a surprise season, giving Tortorella some competition for the crown as the League’s best strategist. In the hunt: Bruce Boudreau, Michel Therien, Peter DeBoer.
Norris Trophy: Brent Burns- San Jose Sharks
Drafted as a forward by the Wild in 2003, Burns has shown an impressive scoring touch in the past and his defensive skills have improved considerably over the years as well. But, what the hulking yet smooth blue liner has done this season has been incredible, even by his own standards. Not only does Burns currently lead all defensemen with 51 points, he is fourth in the entire League. The race for the D-men scoring title isn’t even competitive, as Burns has 12 more points than his trailer, Erik Karlsson. 51 points alongside a +14 rating makes him the overwhelming favorite for the Norris Trophy. Burns has carried his San Jose Sharks this season and the team could be a Stanley Cup favorite if he keeps the effort in the second half. In the hunt: Erik Karlsson, Ryan Suter, Victor Hedman.
Vezina Trophy: Devan Dubnyk- Minnesota Wild
It seems as if Devan Dubnyk just keeps getting better and better. After a well-documented story that saw him fall off the face of the Earth and then bust his butt back to the top, Dubnyk is adding another chapter this season. Second only to Bobrovsky in wins and leading the NHL with both a .936 Save % and 1.88 GAA, Dubnyk has been the reason behind the surprising success of the Wild this season, as they sit atop the Western Conference currently. Standing at 6’6 and 213 lb, Dubnyk utilizes his massive size to his advantage and covers virtually all of the net, even when he’s down on his knees. He is also surprisingly quick for a big man and has no trouble going from one end of the net to the other in a hurry. A shining example of how hard work pays off, Dubnyk would win the Vezina Trophy if it was awarded today. And, if he keeps it up in the second half, he’ll be the winner for the year. In the hunt: Sergei Bobrovsky, Carey Price, Braden Holtby.
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby- Pittsburgh Penguins
MVP is often the hardest award to decipher, and this season that is as true as ever. There have been countless standout performances that would be cinches for the Hart. But, above all the others, Sidney Crosby has been the most impressive. Leading the NHL with 28 goals, Crosby has bounced back stunningly from last season and is on pace to shatter the comparatively measly 85 points he scored then. 20-year-old Connor McDavid has been equally terrific this year and is certainly living up to the “Next One” title bestowed upon him with his League leading 59 points. But, though you can argue McDavid’s performance has been more impressive because he is far younger and on a far lesser team than Crosby, I will predict Crosby here because he has more goals, and we all know the NHL loves goal scoring. We saw last season how much the Penguins depend on Crosby, and they may repeat as Stanley Cup Champions if he keeps going at this rate. You could says he’s got Hart (sorry, I had to). In the hunt: Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Brent Burns.
Who are your picks? Am I a genius? Am I an idiot? You tell me.
Blue Jackets, Wild Appear Unstoppable
The NHL’s two hottest teams over the past month currently have a 24 game winning streak between themselves. The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild have been downright dominant and are roaring into the new year with a great deal of momentum. What is all the more remarkable is that both teams are vastly defying their expectations for this season.
The Hockey News magazine’s 2016 NHL preview did not predict either the Wild or the Jackets making the postseason. As of 12/29 however, Columbus is second in the entire League and Minnesota is fifth. Not bad for two cast-offs, eh?
John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets have been driven in large part by RW Cam Atkinson, who is improving more and more each new year. Atkinson scored 27 goals last season and already has 15 this year along with 20 assists. His 35 points are tied with Patrick Kane and Jake Voracek for 6th in the League. Sam Gagner, Brandon Saad and captain Nick Foligno have also contributed, but Atkinson is largely carrying his team currently.
On the defensive side, G Sergei Bobrovsky has returned to the form that won him the Vezina Trophy in 2013. The 28-year-old Russian netminder currently leads the NHL with 22 victories and is second in both GAA and Save %. These stats are especially impressive when you consider that Seth Jones and Jack Johnson are the team’s only viable defensemen.
The Blue Jackets’ last regulation loss was a 2-0 shutout on November 23 at the hands of Calgary. Their next contest is tonight vs. the Winnipeg Jets, where they will try to push it to 14.
The Minnesota Wild have also been an incredible success story this year. Though the team is much more impressive on paper, still not many were expecting big things at Xcel Energy Center this season.
24-year-old C Charlie Coyle has been a welcome surprise for first year HC Bruce Boudreau, leading his team with 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points. Eric Staal is providing an immediate return on the $10.5 million investment Minnesota made in him this past summer. The former Hurricanes captain has 11 goals and 18 assists to share the team lead with Coyle. The two have been welcome contributors for a team whose biggest offensive threat Zach Parise is struggling mightly. Defenseman Ryan Suter has been a force to be reckoned with on the blue-line, contributing 19 points alongside an NHL best +23.
However, past all of these, the story of the year for the Wild has been the man between their pipes. G Devan Dubnyk is adding another chapter to his resurgent career. 3rd in the League with 18 wins, Dubnyk is leading the NHL in GAA (1.58) Save % (.947) and shutouts (5). More victories from Martin Jones and the aforementioned Bobrovsky are all that separate the 30-year-old from the goaltending triple crown. If the Vezina Trophy was awarded today Dubnyk would undoubtedly be the recipient. He is proving to be a steal for the Wild more and more each year (the team traded a 3rd round pick for him, after all).
The Wild will try to make it 12 in a row as they play the NY Islanders tonight at home.
If the Blue Jackets and Wild can each win their next contest, the NHL will have a Saturday ratings smash opportunity. The two teams are scheduled to meet on Saturday in Minnesota. If both teams win tonight, then the two streaks will go on the line against the other, and only one will come out intact. This is a match that fans across the League will tune in to see, let’s hope we get to see it.
NFL Season Week 10 Pick ‘Em
At the season’s midway point I have a prediction record of 77-54-2. It is not great, hurt by a couple of particularly poor outings in weeks 5 and 6, but after a couple of 9-win weeks I seem to be back on track.
It has been an interesting first half with some surprise contenders and some perennial power houses struggling. Most of the divisions are still tightly contested and as of right now, the wildcard is a complete crap shoot. So as we progress, let us analyze how the teams in week 10 will make out.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens may only be 4-4, but that is good enough to be in 1st place in the AFC North; add to the fact that the Browns are a putrid 0-9. The Browns may realistically become the second team in history to go 0-16; which would likely please the office personnel, because it is the top pick they are after this season.
Ravens win, because they are actually trying to.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are only 3-5, but they have won 2 in a row and are starting to look like the team that made it to the Super Bowl. Conversely, the Chiefs have won 4 in a row and are getting little-to-no fan fare about it.
The Chiefs defense has been consistently stingy all season long and the offense has been efficient and effective. For the Panthers it has been a struggle, with an iffy offensive line and a shoddy pass defense they have been unable to attain constant momentum.
The Panthers had one good year, perhaps they only caught lightning in a bottle; whereas the Chiefs have been a consistently competitive franchise for years.
I like the Chiefs on the road.
Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars suck. Blake Bortles is playing his way out of the league. And Allen Robinson is one of the biggest disappointments of the season. The Texans have not been great, but even without J.J. Watt, the defense has been stout and Jadeveon Clowney has really found his niche as a 3-4 defensive end.
Brock Osweiller would have to throw at least three interceptions for the Jaguars to have a chance. He won’t. Texans win.
Denver Broncos @ New Orleans Saints
The Broncos’ defense has not missed a step since the Super Bowl, despite losing several key starters. But the offense is struggling. Trevor Siemian has not been the same since his injury and teams seem to have caught up with him. Add to the fact that the Denver run game has been struggling mightily due to injuries.
The Saints do not have a good defense, but they may not need one against the Broncos right now. I like the Saints at home to score enough points against the Broncos to edge out a victory.
Los Angeles Rams @ New York Jets
The Rams have only scored 130 points all season. That is good enough for dead last in the NFL. Also, for whatever reason, Football Fish thinks it is a good idea to have Case Keenum throw 50 times and have Todd Gurley only run 12. The Rams simply cannot win like that.
Jets win, because the Rams have an overrated coach and no quarterback.
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Falcons are 4-1 on the road and the Eagles are 3-0 at home. Something has got to give. The Falcons have been prone to give up points and the occasional big play, but the Eagles have not been overly efficient at converting the redzone. And while the Eagles’ defense has been very stingy, the Falcons boast the highest scoring offense in the NFL.
Personally I think the Falcons are a major contender this year and I do not think the Eagles will be able to keep pace with that offense. Falcons win.
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Both of these teams have been incredible disappointments this year. The Bucs had a bunch of potential that has not come to fruition and the Bears have scored the second least points in the NFL. And while the Bears’ defense has shown glimpses of toughness, they truly lack the talent to be elite at this point.
I am no fan of the Bucs, but they have more talent, a better quarterback, and the home field advantage. I think they will win this week.
Green Bay Packers @ Tennessee Titans
This is an interesting matchup. One of the league’s best running offenses in the Titans going against one of the league’s best running defenses in the Packers.
Both of these teams are very hard to predict. The Titans show equal parts greatness and mediocrity, while the Packers are completely dependent on Aaron Rodgers, who is having one of the worst years of his career.
Both teams have been maddeningly inconsistent. So on a coin flip, I am going with the Packers for the victory.
Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins
The Vikings have now lost 3 in a row and have lost the tie breaker to a surging Detroit Lions team. The Redskins are 3-1-1 in their last 5 games and Kirk Cousins is showing more consistency than he was in the beginning of the year. My issue with the Redskins is that they have no running game and therefore can be one-dimensional on offense. And while the Vikings’ offense is dealing with some major issues, I have faith in the Minnesota defense to keep the Redskins in check.
Vikings win and keep a very slim lead on the Lions.
Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Chargers
The emergence of Jay Ajayi has given new life to the Miami Dolphins. He has taken pressure off of their defense and taken the ball out of the hands of Ryan Tannehill. But the Dolphins have yet to get a victory on the road, whereas their opponent is 4-1 at home.
The other thing going in favor of the Chargers is the fact that they are one of the highest scoring teams in the league and are coming off of a big game from Melvin Gordon.
Statistically, everything points towards the Chargers. But I have a hunch that the Dolphins will get the upset. I like the Dolphins to win. I think the Chargers are due for a letdown, I think one good game by Gordon does not absolve him of the horrible career he has had thus far, and I just have trouble living in a world where the Chargers are a good team.
So Dolphins win on a hunch.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals
At first I thought Kaepernick was taking a knee to make a political statement about race relations; I didn’t realize he was protesting competitive football. Let’s face it, the only team the 49ers will ever be favored against would be the Browns, and even then I would have a hard time picking a winner.
I like the Cardinals because they are the better team. And while the Cardinals have struggled this season, I do not believe that the 49ers have the ability to take advantage of Arizona’s weaknesses.
Dallas Cowboys @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Cowboys are undefeated on the road and the Steelers have been having a really hard time as of late. With the injury to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have seemed out of sync and with the offense struggling, Pittsburgh’s defense is being exposed for how mediocre it truly is.
Right now the Cowboys and Falcons are the two best teams in the NFC and with the tremendous play of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, I like the Cowboys to keep up their winning ways.
Seattle Seahawks @ New England Patriots
Richard Sherman should have been penalized, ejected, and fined for his hit on the Buffalo Bills kicker last week. It was a cheap shot made worse by Sherman’s constant excuses and justification via social media. But none of that happened and he will suit up against the Patriots. But let’s be honest, it won’t matter.
The Patriots are coming off of a bye week and are at home and the Seahawks just are not as formidable as they have been in prior years. I like the Patriots to hold serve at home.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Giants
Despite being 5-3, the Giants are -3 overall in scoring. They have no run game and their ability to score points has been completely dependent on Odell Beckem Jr. The Bengals have has a terrible first half, going 3-4-1. Cincinnati has typically been a regular season power house, but this year they seem to be in disarray in all facets of the game. But going by the eye test I truly believe the Bengals are a better team.
I think the Bengals will wins this game because they have more options and more firepower on offense than does the Giants.
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