Brandon Dubinsky - The man, the myth, the enigma

WASHINGTON - APRIL 18: Brandon Dubinsky #17 of the New York Rangers hits Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 18, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


In Part One, we looked at Ryan Callahan's numbers under the microscope, and luckily there appeared to be some clear patterns in his development, and in his role under the Tom Renney and John Tortorella regimes.  With Brandon, things aren't so easily distinguished.   In the interest of fairness, we'll be looking at the exact same stats used for Ryan, starting with a review of his boxscore numbers.

Brandon Dubinsky was the 60th overall pick in the 2004 draft, 67 picks before Ryan Callahan, and coming off of his 1st ppg season with the Winter Hawks as an 18 year old.   He is one year younger than Callahan, which should be taken into account as we review his first three years.

Year Team League GP G A PTS PPG Factor NHLE PPG 82 Game
2002-03  Portland Winter Hawks  WHL  44 8 18 26 0.591 0.29 0.171 14.052
2003-04  Portland Winter Hawks  WHL  71 30 48 78 1.099 0.29 0.319 26.125
2004-05  Portland Winter Hawks  WHL  68 23 36 59 0.868 0.29 0.252 20.633
2005-06  Portland Winter Hawks  WHL  51 21 46 67 1.314 0.29 0.381 31.240
2006-07  Hartford Wolf Pack  AHL  71 21 22 43 0.606 0.44 0.266  
2006-07  New York Rangers  NHL  6 0 0 0 0.000 1.00 0.000 20.149
2007-08  New York Rangers  NHL  82 14 26 40 0.488 1.00 0.488 40.000
2008-09  New York Rangers  NHL  82 13 28 41 0.500 1.00 0.500 41.000
2009-10  New York Rangers  NHL  69 20 24 44 0.638 1.00 0.638 52.290

We'll continue after we take the plunge.

Whereas Callahan took his point production with him as he made the jump from the ranks of the OHL to Hartford, Brandon stumbled, posting his lowest rate since he was a 17 year old.  However, that hiccup didn't prevent the organization from moving him up the ranks anyway, where he continued his progress right where he left off, culminating with his first twenty goal season as a professional last year.  The reason for the confidence, I suspect, is because his goal scoring stayed right on track:

Year 2002-03  2003-04  2004-05  2005-06  2006-07  2007-08  2008-09  2009-10 
ES Gpg 2.702 5.694 5.246 5.129 7.966 13.000 9.000 14.261

While his WHL totals stagnated, Dubinsky's move to the AHL produced an increased scoring rate, and the subsequent move to the NHL saw a leap to where he is now, providing 13-14 ES goals (ignoring the 9 for a moment, as we'll explain later on).  One should note that until this past year, Callahan has always had the higher goal totals, which is a simple product of their respective abilities to get shots off (per game totals listed):

Dubinsky Callahan
2007-08 1.915 1.769
2008-09 2.293 2.926
2009-10 2.391 2.649

Finally, as before, let's look at the same underlying factors for Brandon:

  ZoneStart ZS Rank Shot Distance True Shooting % QualComp QC Rank Qual Team QT Rank
2007-08  64.5 2 of 14 31.6 7.1 0.011 8 of 14 0.119 2 of 14
2008-09  57.3 9 of 13 27.9 4.7 0.030 6 of 13 0.096 6 of 13
2009-10  47.6 11 of 14 28.0 7.0 0.121 3 of 14 0.244 3 of 14

As expected, we see many similarities between the two players.  Renney did the job of sheltering Dubinsky as much as he did Callahan his first year, with ridiculous zone starts and easy-ish competition.   Both have also taken on larger defensive roles over their 3 years, getting harder competition and harder ZoneStarts each year.  Finally, we see the role of luck finding it's way into Brandon's numbers when his true shooting took a massive hit, which led to the drop in goals in 2008-2009, much like Callahan's drop this past year.

One point of contention for many has been the QTeam ranks for each.  While Callahan has consistently gotten 3rd line teammates, Brandon has mostly been with the firsts, notably Jagr and Gaborik.  That is used as a consistent excuse for why Dubinsky is able to post better numbers.  Of course, with those teammates has come harder competition, a product of both Tortorella and Renney typically matching power with power.  The argument can be made that these two factors cancel out, but that's a debate that will continue long past this post.

So what conclusions do we make about Mr. Dubinsky going forward?   Well, while Callahan's production has been defined by the role the coaching staff puts him in, Dubinsky has overcome that, increasing his production no matter how often they make him start in the defensive zone, or how hard the opposition gets.  With that, his ceiling should be higher than Callahan's, potentially cementing himself as a 1st line forward in the NHL as he enters his prime years.  For him to reach his ceiling, however, it's almost all on Brandon. 

The one area he must improve, he has to find a way to get more shots.  With a difference of 50 directed shots between he and Ryan, that could mean an extra 3-4 ES goals per year.  That would put him in the 17-18 range, typical of a 1st liner in today's NHL.  The other will be finding consistency in his game, a problem that haunts both players, but for which Brandon is more notorious, given the perceived energy levels of each player on a nightly basis.

In part 3 (yes, there's more than 2 parts in a 2-player series!), we'll look at a comparison of both players on special teams, and a quick look at what their aggressive style brings to the statistical worlds.

credit for the stats to and

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