MINNEAPOLIS - You’ll have to forgive Devan Dubnyk if he has difficulty wrapping his head around what has happened over the last six months both within his own family and on the ice with the Minnesota Wild.
He lost five straight starts to open the season, then took five weeks away from the team as his wife addressed concerns for her health. Dubnyk has played in 30 games, with a 12-15-2-1 mark for the Wild this season. He lost his job to Alex Stalock, then had the NHL suspended in mid-March due to a global health pandemic.
It seems like something made for a movie or 30 for 30 documentary on ESPN.
“It’s all a blur,” Dubnyk told Twin Cities reporters via Zoom on Thursday. “That pretty much sums up how ridiculous and crazy this season has been, this whole thing.”
Dubnyk, in his sixth season with the Wild, is thankful he can now laugh with his wife, Jen, about the craziness that has transpired this season. Speaking candidly, he said she is doing better after suffering a health scare that required hospitalization last November.
It got the most serious after he returned from a Nov. 19 road game against the Buffalo Sabers. He missed four straight games to be with her, and eventually took a leave of absence.
“We had pretty good clarity once I came back for the last time in January. There was some time that just needed to pass, but everything has gone very well. She’s feeling well, certainly no concerns at the moment,” Dubynk said.
Dubnyk is using the Coronavirus pandemic as a new opportunity to spend more time with his wife, and their three kids. He also celebrated his 34th birthday on Monday. He got in a little golf on Sunday to celebrate, and let his kids sing him “Happy Birthday.”
He’s staying in shape with the help of home gym in his basement that includes a sport court, and a Peloton bike. Like every other player in the NHL, he’s waiting to hear when players will be allowed to get back on the ice. The Wild were getting ready for morning skate prior to hosting the Vegas Golden Knights when the NHL suspended its season. Players were banned from the locker room and told to go home.
Dubnyk has stayed in Minnesota since, and has yet to step on any form of ice.
“Everybody wants to come back to play, we’ve wanted that from the second it got stopped. It’s hard to wrap your head around the different scenarios just because there’s so much up in the air still right now,” Dubnyk said.
Dubnyk is one of several players in consistent contact with the NHL Players Association, being a Wild representative. Any and all options are on the table for resuming play, including having regional sites and putting players in quarantine for several months.
Citing his wife’s recent health scare and having three young children, Dubnyk is hesitant to that option.
“I know myself personally, I’m not interested in packing up and going away for that length of time away from my family. I can’t imagine anybody else would,” Dubnyk said.
There’s also the fact that he may have to fight for his starting goalie job if and when the NHL gets back on the ice. Stalock has played in 38 games this season, filling in for Dubnyk, and is 20-11-4 with a 2.67 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.
In 30 games, Dubnyk had a 3.35 goals against average and a .890 save percentage to go along with plenty of distractions away from the net. With Stalock, the Wild were winning consistently, were 7-3 in their last 10 games and one point out of a playoff spot. The last game Dubnyk played in was their last before the NHL stopped play, a 5-4 overtime win at Anaheim on March 8.
“The biggest thing I said right before this all happened is the reason we’re here and the reason we play is to win. I’m as competitive as anybody and I always expect to be in the net every night, but the reason we’re here is winning,” Dubnyk said. “If you’ve got a guy that’s playing as well as Al was and we’re winning hockey games, then I’m going to sit there and enjoy it and be with my team and enjoy winning.”
Dubnyk misses his teammates, his coaches and having the daily routine of going to the rink.
Every player does, and it’s unsettling that there are no answers for when the NHL might come back. When Dubnyk was asked about his gut feeling of hockey coming back this season, he didn’t know.
“Every single player will tell you that it’s exactly what we want to be doing, we want to get back playing hockey,” Dubnyk said. “I don’t know how long it will take, hopefully not too long, but we have to imagine that at some point life will get back to normal.”