Why Brandon Dubinsky Makes Sense in Vancouver

I am not Brandon Dubinsky’s agent. However, I am going to pretend I am for the next 1000 words (give or take). Grantland writer Bill Barnwell recently wrote his NFL free agent previews this way – he would attempt to pitch or ‘sell’ the player to prospective GMs.

Here is an example of one of those columns – offensive tackle Jake Long, who has since signed with the St. Louis Rams.

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Dubinsky isn’t the perfect player. He may be overpaid for what he brings to the table offensively. However, I’ll be sticking to a similar formula followed by Mr. Barnwell:

These pieces are designed to be from the perspective of an agent trying to hype up his client as the latter is about to hit free agency. My goal in writing these isn’t to be accurate (or lie), but instead to employ whatever arguments I can to make the player in question look as valuable as possible.

What does Brandon Dubinsky bring to the table? 

Unflattering Brandon Dubinsky screen cap via Puck Daddy

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Let’s do a quick career retrospective. Dubinsky played four years with the Portland Winterhawks (he was a linemate of Jannik Hansen’s in 2005-06). He scored over 20 goals three times, and in his best season (2003-04) he finished with 78 points and 137 PIM in 71 games. The Rangers liked enough of what they saw that season to use the 60th overall pick on him that summer. Don Maloney was running the drafts for the Rangers at the time, and he is now in Phoenix where he serves as GM of the Coyotes. Gee, I wonder if Phoenix could use a player like him? Maloney is well-regarded for identifying talent in places overlooked by other GMs (although to be fair, he did take Al Montoya 6th overall in that same draft year).

Dubinsky had a phenomenal season in the AHL in 2006-07 (his first and only AHL campaign), scoring 21 goals and compiling 115 PIM in 71 games. He played six games in the NHL that year.

He was very solid as a rookie in 2007-08 with the Rangers, finishing with 40 points and 79 PIM in 82 games. He even saw some time on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Sean Avery. From 2008:

"You start at a certain level and then, as the season goes on, you increase that level because you’re forced to by playing with these guys every day," Dubinsky said. "When you finally get your level up to their level or where it needs to be, then you realize, ‘OK, I do have more time.’ Before, you weren’t at that level, so everything was moving by so quickly that you never felt you had that time.

"I think that’s a big change for me."

Jagr liked playing with Dubinsky because of how hard he was on the puck (especially along the boards and down low, much like Jagr’s new linemate Jamie Benn). Dubinsky also started to show flashes of a playmaking side.

Mike Gillis took over as Canucks GM in the 2008 offseason, and the club made its first attempt at trading for Dubinsky that summer. They weren’t able to negotiate a trade, and they missed out on David Backes after sending him an offer sheet. 0-for-2 with finding a young power forward that summer.

Dubinsky’s sophomore season was similar to his rookie campaign – 41 points and 112 PIM in 82 games. He scored 20 goals in season three (in only 69 games), too.

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But his breakout campaign came in year four (2010-11). Dubinsky scored 24 goals, finished with 54 points, and racked up 100 PIM in 77 games. And his underlying numbers were even more impressive.

Dubinsky played the toughest minutes of any Ranger forward (with a Corsi Relative Quality of Competition rating of 0.977). Essentially, he was out there against strong puck possession players. Corsi Relative isn’t a perfect measure of player quality, but it is much more effective than using any other readily-available metric ("advanced" or otherwise). He still drove the play in the right direction, too (4.7 Corsi Relative rating). And he started less than 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone (47.6% to be exact), too.

A big reason for his offensive jump forward from 2008-09 to 2009-10 and 2010-11? Significant  upgrades on his wings.


Frequency Strength Line Combination

Voros and Zherdev, for the most part. 


Frequency Strength Line Combination

Dubinsky spent a lot of time skating on a line with Gaborik in 2009-10 (his first 20-goal season).

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Frequency Strength Line Combination

And he finally found regular linemates for his big breakout season in 2010-11. He played primarily left wing on this line, as Anisimov handled the duties of a center. 

The Canucks again took a run at Dubinsky during the 2011 offseason, as he and the Rangers were at odds over a new contract (they ended up agreeing on a four-year, $16.8 million pact days before a scheduled arbitration hearing).

And here is a more extensive look at Dubinsky’s advanced numbers from his time with the Rangers:

Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Relative PDO Pens Taken/60 Pens Drawn/60 Off Zone Start %
2007-08 0.06 10.7 983 0.8 1.8 64.5
2008-09 0.35 9 989 1.1 1.3 57.3
2009-10 0.98 4.7 1010 0.8 1 47.6
2010-11 1.44 1.9 986 1 1.1 48.5
2011-12 0.85 8.8 1015 1.1 1.1 41.8

Dubinsky routinely played against very good players (as evidenced by his positive Corsi Rel QoC). Anything close to or over the 1.0 mark represents very good competition. Dubinsky still found a way to be a positive Corsi Relative player each season, too. He drew more penalties than he took, and as his time in New York progressed, he saw a greater degree of defensive responsibility (as evidenced by Tortorella’s increasing reliance on Dubinsky on defensive zone draws).

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Beyond the qualitative stuff, which checks out well, Dubinsky offers a lot. He is versatile, having succeeded in the NHL as both a center and a left winger. He is physical and tough, and he is able to play a variety of roles, depending on what the team asks of him. I am of the mindset that Ryan Kesler’s best long-term fit is on the right wing (he can still take faceoffs, much like Jarome Iginla does in Calgary), but playing on the wing would allow Kesler to shoot the puck as often as he would like. He simply isn’t a natural puck distributor, in my view.

Dubinsky is also relatively young and has many years in front of him. Because of his slightly inflated contract, the Blue Jackets may be open to moving him. And there are a number of teams who could use a solid two-way second liner like him on their respective rosters.

Dubinsky (two more years at $4.2 million per) essentially carries the same cap hit as David Booth (two more years at $4.25 million per). He’s a better fit for Vancouver’s second line than Booth (although ideally they would both be there). If the Canucks can find a way to shed some salary, a Booth-Dubinsky-Kesler could be a dominant puck possession trio (although all three have dealt with injury issues recently, so it may be a stretch to bank on them being healthy at the same time for an extended period of time).

Dubinsky also fits in with Gillis’ MO of getting bigger, stronger, and harder to play against. And he is already on speaking terms with many of his potential teammates: 

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Previous Posts from Jeff:

I have also been working at developing a free hockey app (Fantasy Hockey PowerPlay) for Android and Apple – similar to RotoWorld, but more in-depth coverage on all breaking news from across the league. Check it out here. We also released a Midseason Guide for free.

  • Mantastic

    i don’t think you realise the extremely limit amount of cap space you will have next year even if you move Ballard and Luongo. especially when you keep Booth as well.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Dubinsky won me over during 24/7, when in the midst of the Arterm Anisimov incident against the Lightning, he took the time to let us (and the referees) know that it was in fact f****** Lecavalier who did it. Classic.

  • You need solid relationships to make trades and so far Gillis only seems to have two – with rieger in buffalo and tallon in florida. If the canucks do a deadline deal it’s probably with one of those clubs.

  • @Mantastic

    Daniel Sedin ($6.100m) / Henrik Sedin ($6.100m) / Alexandre Burrows ($4.500m)
    David Booth ($4.250m) / Ryan Kesler ($5.000m) / Zack Kassian ($0.870m)
    Mason Raymond ($3.000m) / Jordan Schroeder ($1.200m) / Jannik Hansen ($1.350m)
    Nicklas Jensen ($0.894m) / Maxim Lapierre ($1.200m) / Dale Weise ($0.777m)
    Chris Higgins ($1.200m) / Andrew Ebbett ($0.700m) /
    Dan Hamhuis ($4.500m) / Kevin Bieksa ($4.600m)
    Alexander Edler ($5.000m) / Chris Tanev ($1.500m)
    Jason Garrison ($4.600m) / Kevin Connauton ($0.900m)
    Frank Corrado ($0.599m) / Cam Barker ($0.700m)
    Cory Schneider ($4.000m)
    Eddie Lack ($0.750m)
    Buyout: Roberto Luongo ($0.000m)
    Buyout: Keith Ballard ($0.000m)
    CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
    (these totals are compiled with the bonus cushion)
    SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $64,290,111; BONUSES: $0
    CAP SPACE (24-man roster): $9,889

    This is a potential roster that’s not super zany re: the numbers the canucks will probably bring the players back at. Were you to lose Higgins and Raymond in favour of Jensen and Dubinsky, suddenly we’re still under the cap.

      • JCDavies

        Kassian, Tanev and Schroeder are on the team next year. I’m pretty confident Connaughton or Corrado replaces Ballard as the iffy puck mover.

        As for both of them there, one riding pine, I’m less certain of, but I can imagine the canucks finding another depth defenseman for their salaries, ie Alberts and Barker. But the cap world being what it is, AV might have to deal with 2 or 3 rookies and give Hamhuis more minutes.

        Jensen is one of 14 forwards in my lineup. It’s likely he gets a look, and if Higgins and/or Raymond are gone, it’s more likely.

        Should Dubinsky join our roster (unlikely, but a great dream), I’d expect Kassian or Jensen would ride with Kes or Hank while the other played with Lapierre, Schroeder would get Hansen and Booth or Dubinsky as babysitters and Burrows would float between Hank and Kesler. There you have 3 lines with 1 rookie and 2 proven vets.

        Or you could have fun and jam Kassian Schroeder and Jensen on on sheltered line and give them ALL OF THE OZONES!

        But Seisito or Pinzotto or Ebbett could easily get Jensen’s spot, knowing AV and GMMG.

        Key point is that even with one rookie Dman and replacement level 4th liners, Dubinsky can happen, if we dream hard enough.

        • JCDavies

          Not a very realistic hypothetical scenario.

          I could propose a Luongo for Stamkos straight-up swap or maybe buying out the Sedins but what’s the point? They’re completely ridiculous and would never happen.

          • JCDavies

            I tried to use an example of a ridiculous scenario to point out why it makes no sense speculating on things that are unrealistic (I don’t believe a Luongo buyout is a realistic scenario). I guess I was unsuccessful in getting my point across. Sorry about that.

            I also think I misunderstood what nanodummy was trying to do with his post. Sorry about that too.

      • JCDavies

        No, Luongo gets traded, probably very soon. I just used capgeek, as Mantastic said. Buying him out on there was expedient.

        The Luongo trade obviously has bearing on this, but I’m assuming one of the holdups has been the unwillingness to take on extra cap.

        Also, Dubinsky would require a trade to acquire, so one assumes that some of the chips in my roster may be gone if that would happen/some of the chips acquired in the Luongo trade.

        Ballard could be one of those chips, so could Luongo, if Sideshow Bobrovski bottoms out, as I’m sure he will.

        But, yeah, I am in no way proposing buying out Luongo.