Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Development of Dubinsky and Callahan: What Will and Probably Wont Continue

Twelve days ago I sat here and wrote a piece about how the Rangers new top line was proving that for different players development happens at its own pace.  The impetus for my analysis was mainly that they were about to debut as a top line, but more in that they had already shown in the 3 games before the Gaborik injury that they were the best line this season.  Since I have revisited the topic of Artem Anisimov in the context of him proving the search for a number 1 center was over and that the big names were no long necessary through trade or signing.  Because I have discussed AA again this time I want to focus on his two other linemates and how far and away above previously play they are performing.

In Dubinsky for me there has been an irrational overreaction from fans to his “lack of development” prior to this season partially because he was not maximizing his talent but also in my opinion for many as a way to protect Ryan Callahan from any criticism and boost Callahan’s standing overall.  I have said on many occasions that Dubinsky has tremendous talent but what he was lacking was the consistent results and even focus to go to another level.  He was always a guy who could on any given night or over a few games put up goals and points, but then he was also famous for disappearing as an impact player for games at a time.  This season he latter is not the case and the former is lasting longer than ever before.

After last night’s game with Carolina Dubinsky has 5 goals, 4 assists and 9 points in 9 games having notched points in 6 of 9 and creating significant chances for himself and others in at least 2 of the other 3 while playing against top competition for the last six and playing in all situations.  In each game he is working extremely hard on the fore-check, killing penalties, taking the body and hustling, which ironically are things he never got credit for doing but were things that made Callahan a fan favorite.  Dubinsky had done all of those things before but as I said it was never with this kind of consistency and it shows a level of mental and emotional maturity as a player and person for Brandon. 

Before the season started I asked if Prospal was out long term who should get the other A on their sweater and the results were mixed with many believing that Staal or Dubinsky should be the ones.  My belief then was that Dubinsky should get one but that he would not because of the contract holdout a season ago and since Staal did get that letter on a temporary basis.  My point right now is that if I posed that question again I have no doubt based on the way not only Dubinsky is playing but leading he would get and deserves that letter on his sweater.

As I said in last night’s game recap I do not believe the pace that Dubinsky or Callahan are on at the moment is sustainable given their prior performance, though I believe Dubinsky has a better chance of maintaining an elevated pace than Callahan.  Dubinsky’s unsustainability for me is mostly in his shooting percentage which after last night’s goal is now at 20.8% (5 for 22) while his career mark coming into the season was .095.  Granted he did raise his shooting percentage to a career high 12.1% and if he keeps scoring on beautiful shots like last night I could see another jump to maybe 14-15%, which would still be phenomenal.  Either that would have to happen or his volume of shots would have to drastically increase not just from his career average but even this year.  Coming into the season he averaged 2.17 shots per game and that is up to 2.44 this year, which would equate to 200 shots in the year and at a 15% success rate translates into 30 goals.  That would be a huge boost for the Rangers and jump for Dubinsky though somewhat reasonable unlike the 45 goals he is currently on pace for.  I look for him to level off some in the production and possibly end the year with 25-29 goals and 36-39 assists which any Ranger fan would be thrilled with.

As for Callahan he is doing all the things he has done since the day he arrived in New York and on top of that the offensive production has picked up.  Unlike Dubinsky though the increase has been on the assist side of the ledger where Callahan had never picked up more than 18 in a season and has 7 in 10 games so far.  Callahan did not suddenly turn into Brad Richards, Joe Thornton or Backstrom as a passer to sustain anything near that production, but if he can end the year with 30 assists it would be a huge improvement over prior seasons and show there is statistical growth potential for him.  On the scoring side before last night he was actually underperforming his career average of 9% shooting with a 7.1% mark but with his goal on seven shots he boosted that to 8.57%.  The difference for Callahan this year though being his volume is up in huge margins where is now on pace for 318 shots over the year where as his previous career high was 237.  If he can get say 275 shots at around 9% effectiveness then he is capable of hitting that 25 goal 55 point mark.

I wrote earlier, “The beginning of this season has Callahan playing more relaxed on the ice, maybe more comfortable with A on his chest and we will see where his development is and might head over the next period of time.”  Over those 12 days and 6 games it has lead not just to continued offensive production as discussed above but further growth into the role as a letter wearer on this team in sticking up for Michal Rozsival when he was improperly booed at the Garden and calling out the team for the pitiful performance against Atlanta.  He has progressed in this fashion to a point where there is a legitimate discussion in my mind as to whether next year he will take hold of the C and not just the A.  I do not see the Rangers making that kind of change in season and it is still hard to see them taking it from Drury at all, but much more possible next year.

The craziest part of these huge starts for both Callahan and Dubinsky is that they could have been far better with all the missed chances each of them have had either from not lifting the puck or missing the net altogether.  The key for both to sustaining the tremendous level of production will obviously be continuing to play the way are right for the next 73 games, working the tough areas, being in the slot, keeping up the cycle and remaining productive even when Gaborik comes back and not falling into the trap of watching him first and making things happen themselves second.  The Rangers need to ride this gravy train for as long as they can, but I would not expect that while the improvement they have shown is a sight to see that it can be sustained to this degree.  In the meantime the fans should take heart in knowing that even if the offensive production does eventually slow down as track records suggest it must from these levels that the development of these players into quality NHL players and leaders will not.  The only negative of all of this is that both are in contract years and this kind of production and development will end up costing the Rangers dearly come negotiations. If that is the negative that comes out of this year in the development of these two homegrown Rangers then I can guarantee that all Ranger fans will happily take it.  On a side note that is twice today I believe I have suggested Sather spend money, so I might have to be checked by a doctor soon, lol.

Have at it in the comments.

Dubinsky goal last night:

Callahan goal last night: