Devan Dubnyk’s return to Arizona a triumphant one

Oct 15, 2015, 2:06 PM
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Devan Dubnyk reported to Coyotes training camp last year to play for his fourth team in two seasons, former Arizona goalie coach Sean Burke saw a broken man.

“I think he was confused and I think he had lost his confidence,” Burke said. “He was a battered sort of player who wasn’t sure what he had as a game and almost all his problems were mental.”

When Dubnyk steps on the ice Thursday at Gila River Arena, he’ll bring a completely rebuilt mindset and the confidence that comes from a spectacular season.

After an impressive 19-game stint in Arizona as Mike Smith’s backup, Dubnyk was traded to the Wild in January for a 2015 third-round pick. In a stunning 39 starts for the Wild, Dubnyk allowed just 68 goals, won 27 games, posted five shutouts in his first 16 starts and a .936 save percentage overall.

He was a Vezina Trophy finalist, he won the Masterton Trophy and he signed a six-year $26 million contract in the summer to remain with Minnesota.

“Whether you want to say he took away any excuse from us or whether he just gave us an opportunity for everybody to refocus on their own jobs and their own roles, he used his time (in Arizona) and got his game back to where it needed to be,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said Thursday. “Obviously, once he got that next opportunity he was ready for it.”

Dubnyk gave credit for putting a brutal 2013-14 season behind him to the entire Coyotes organization, from management down to the coaches and players.

“Honestly, I could go right down the list but we don’t have the time for me to name all the guys that helped me. We’d be here all day,” he said. “From the day I signed in the summer, I felt like I was part of the team and I felt like I had been here a long time. It’s such a humble, hard working, good group of people, right from the top to the bottom, over there. It was special to be a part of it even though it was a short time.”

Of particular note in his turnaround was Burke, Dubnyk said.

“It wasn’t like he brought this new thing to my game,” Dubnyk said. “He just put 100 percent confidence in me from the day I showed up there and I wasn’t treated like a damaged project from the year before. That was important to have that feeling after what I had been through in Edmonton.

“It’s not like he sits down and pumps your tires all day every day but he played the game at a very high level not very long ago so you knew he understood what it was like to be out there. He just wanted me to go out and work and have fun doing it — have fun playing the game again and just trust my game.”

Dubnyk still keeps in touch with Burke, and he remains friends with former Coyotes and Edmonton teammate Sam Gagner and a few other Coyotes. He even took a golfing trip with Smith and six other players to Ireland this summer where Smith said they played 11 rounds in seven days at some of Ireland’s best courses, including Ballybunion, Tralee and Royal County Down.

“It was fun to hang out with Doobie. He is such a great guy; a bubbly personality,” Smith said. “After everything he went through before he got here, I felt for him because I was in a similar situation in Tampa and you never want to see that happen to such a good guy.

“For him to play some nice hockey and get rewarded with a big contract just goes to show how much work he’s put in. He deserves this.”

Wild (2-0) at Coyotes (3-0)

Time: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Gila River Arena
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM

Scouting the Wild: Minnesota swept the three-game series form Arizona last season … F Justin Fontaine, who missed Minnesota’s first two games with an oblique injury, will be in the lineup, replacing rookie Tyler Graovac, who went on injured reserve with a groin injury. Fontaine’s return will allow Charlie Coyle to move back to center. … The Wild have been off since Saturday, when they defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in their home opener.

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