Brandon Dubinsky has been one of the Garden Faithful’s favorite Blueshirts from the very beginning of his NHL career. The utilitarian forward’s stock with the fanbase did take a bit of a tumble prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, however, when the 24-year-old restricted free agent (along with his agent, Kurt Overhardt) held out for more money before settling on a two-year contract with a salary of $1.85 million per season.
Some fans didn’t feel Dubinsky’s sophomore performance in 2008-09, when he scored 41 points (one point higher than his output in his rookie season) was good enough to warrant a holdout. Others wondered if he’d ever live up to some of the hype that noteworthy prospects on Broadway often get tangled up with.
Dubinsky may not have shut the door on questions like that for good, but his effort this season was enough to silence most of his critics, for at least the time being. The numbers show it, too. They might also show that Dubinsky, who started the season at center ice, belongs on the left wing.
Dubinsky was a decent fit with the Rangers’ top sniper Marian Gaborik. Dubinsky played a significant portion of the season with Gaborik, usually with either Vinny Prospal or Erik Christensen. He scored a career-high 20 goals despite missing a little over a month due to injury, made better decisions with the puck, and took fewer bad penalties. He was also a much better fit on the left wing, where head coach John Tortorella moved the native of Anchorage midway through the season. And who doesn’t love his rancor for Sidney Crosby?
Yet inconsistency is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Dubinsky’s game, and it still reared it’s ugly head at times. Dubinsky went through a handful of slumps throughout the season, and often times showed an inability to multi-task, seemingly sacrificing the gritty element of his game when focusing more on playmaking.
Overall, however, the positives outweighed the negatives. For the second consecutive season, Brandon Dubinsky played better than the season before.
Although “Dubi” may not have surpassed his rookie numbers during his second season, he also didn’t play with the same caliber of player either. Dubinsky played with Jaromir Jagr in 2006-07. A declining Jagr, yes, but still a dangerous player. The duo, along with several left wingers, were effective, and Dubinsky’s 40 points as a rookie were impressive. His 41 the following season may not be much of an improvement, but he wasn’t playing with Jagr anymore.
He and Nikolai Zherdev may both be useful players, but neither were good enough, at least not then, to be effective without another skilled player on the opposite wing. Instead, they got Aaron Voros. That feel-good idea lasted for about two weeks, and what followed were a variety of failed experiments. The fact that Dubinsky scored as much in that situation as he did playing with Jagr was a testament to his improvement.
Those pesky questions we mentioned in the beginning, however, may be back some time. 20 goals and 44 points in 69 games projects to about 24 goals and 50 points over a full season. That still may not be exactly what some want to see from Dubinsky. It still may not be enough from the former second-round draft pick.
As long as Dubinsky continues to improve from one season to the next, he can keep the questions at bay. It might take a while, but then again, some slabs of steak just take a little bit longer to cook, don’t they? Just take a look at the Sedin Twins over in Vancouver. It took them about a decade, but they’ve finally reached their potential.
If Dubinsky keeps making small strides, who knows? He may just end up reaching those high expectations. Even if he doesn't, he’s already turned himself into a useful NHL player. If this is as good as it gets with Dubinsky, then at best, he’s a solid role player. At worst, he’s traded as part of a package for a better player. I wouldn’t do that right now, not unless that better player was a whole lot better. I want at least one more season to see the next step in the development of this feisty kid.
Brandon Dubinsky Grade: B+