When it comes to the New York Rangers current complexion, their home grown talent (aside from Henrik Lundqvist) usually focuses on two players: Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. Both were drafted by the Rangers, nurtured from the juniors all the way to the NHL by the Rangers and finally brought onto this team to be different makers. In this edition of X Factors For 2010 however, we will look at Dubinsky only.
Dubinsky is a very interesting talent. He's a 24-year-old center who can also pivot at wing, and was the Rangers 2nd round pick (60th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He has a mean streak, doesn't mind to drop the gloves, has the ability to throw a huge hit, can score goals, has nice vision and some really soft hands and yet hasn't been able to put all of these talents together consistently in the same season.
Now I'm not saying that Dubinsky is a bad player, not even close. His 20 goals (a career high) and 24 assists for 44 points (also a career high) in 69 was pretty close to a "break out" season; especially since he was finally able to make the leap to becoming a 20 goal scorer. You can also probably bet that his 44 total points would have been much closer to 50-55 points had he of been able to play in 82 games rather than 69.
Anyway, onto why Dubinsky is an X factor. Join me after the jump to find out why.
For the past year Rangers fans have been wondering if John Tortorella will allow Dubinsky to make the leap to becoming a first line center. For awhile Dubinsky was on the first line, sometimes as a wing, other times as a center; but he never really seemed to stick there for the entire season.
That didn't, however, effect his minutes per game at all. Dubinsky averaged well over 19 minutes a night, including over two minutes of power play and two minutes of penalty kill time a game as well. He is one of those forwards that Tortorella loves to utilize, a guy who can play even strength and special teams as well.
Last year, in my opinion, we really got to see just how much Dubinsky meant to this team. When he was injured--if you forgot, he broke his wrist blocking a shot in a game against the Calgary Flames--the Rangers looked like they were missing a serious cog to their machine; and their entire play suffered while he was out.
He brings a ton of heart to the ice, something that the Rangers were sorely in need of last year, and his style of play is literally an example to those around him. He has no problem blocking shots, back-checking to play defense, sticking up for his teammates in scrums and doing the best he can at keeping the flies off guys like Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist.
As for this year? The expectations for Dubinsky are probably going to be pretty high. It will be his fourth year in the NHL, and with Alexander Frolov joining the team no matter what line he centers (if he plays center) he should have some premiere talent on his wing. Wether it's him playing with Frolov, or if Frolov plays on the first line then him playing with a guy like Prospal or Erik Christensen, or maybe even him centering the first line himself. Either way this is a big year for Dubinsky.
Offensively the Rangers would probably like to see a more consistency out of him; six separate times last year Dubinsky went three games or more without registering a single point. While that's not the end of the world--hey, he did put up career point totals after all--the Rangers would like to see him cut those gaps a little tighter. Especially since Dubinsky is being elevated to a premiere player on this team, if he isn't one already.
The goals total finally improved last year, so I don't think that anyone is expecting a big jump in that statistical compartment of his game. But there is no reason why we can't assume that Dubinsky can put up more than 24 assists this year, or even round out his overall offensive game.
I would also like to see an improvement in his power play points; last year he only registered six goals and 10 points with the man advantage. Obviously a lot of this has to do with the fact that the Rangers couldn't score on the power play (unless your name was Marian Gaborik), but it's still an area for improvement.
Also don't forget that this is another contract year for Dubinsky, who will probably be looking to cash in on a nice season. This should be an interesting point to focus on, but not until next off-season.
So, to conclude, the expectations on Dubinsky are there, and they aren't unrealistic either. Dubinsky has become a premiere member of this team, and it's time to see his game elevated to the next level. Thoughts guys?