A Long Time Coming: My Brandon Dubinsky Mea Culpa

Kirk Irwin

In which Dan admits how wrong he was about acquiring Dubinsky in the Rick Nash deal...

1. Never wanted any part of Dubinsky, and I hope he wasn’t considered an "asset" in this return.

I wrote that in a comment titled "Gut Reaction" in our Rick Nash trade comments section. Commenter cbjfan14 noted that he (she?) was excited to see Dubinsky. My reply:

I wish I shared your opinion. I just don’t get the allure.

A Rangers fan dropped by and said this: "Trust me though, Dubinsky and Arty are two very good hockey players who give %110, play well defensively and have some talent." I was skeptical:

I’ve been hearing from some places that Dubinsky, in fact, doesn’t play 110% all the time.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but damn, man. Damn.

So, here I sit at my keyboard, trying to find the right way to fully encompass the totality of wrongness that I had that day.

Clearly, we've had the benefit of seeing how this team has completely remade its image and its work habits since Nash left, and having seen how all the pieces have fit together. And, like Herb once said, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

This article isn't going to be a #FancyStats exploration Dubinsky. That's not even necessary. This is all you really need to know: in his first full season with Columbus (last season was shortened by injuries and the lockout), Dubinsky put up his second highest point total in his career (16/34/50, compared to 24/30/54 in '10-'11 in New York). It was his highest assist total and third highest goal total.

When I was sour on Dubinsky as part of the trade, it was for the following reason: he struck me as basically a copy of R.J. Umberger, only slightly younger. I didn't see the allure of adding that player, when this team didn't really have a need for it. But, Craig Patrick was part of the brain trust making that deal, and Craig Patrick knows all too well about what Herb Brooks meant in his quote.

This club needed a new identity when Nash was traded. It needed a new attitude, and new voices in the dressing room. It needed a swagger, even if it didn't have anything to swagger about. It needed players who played hard all the time, every time.

In short, it needed a player like Dubinsky.

The Jackets don't have a Captain right now, but after what we've seen this post-season, the short list has to have Dubinsky's name on it right now. He has taken on the toughest assignment in this playoff series--checking Sidney Crosby all game, every game--and has done as well through four games as anyone could have hoped. And, while some players might have allowed that to affect their offensive game, Dubinsky also leads the team in points in this series, with 1G/5A/6P in four games.

This team has adapted the attitude to never quit, no matter how far down they may be. We've seen it in this series twice, when things looked bleak. Moreover, we've seen it plenty over the past two seasons. The Jackets went from 30th to almost, to the playoffs. In two seasons. While having traded their best offensive player.

I'll paraphrase Herb: hard work trumps talent when talent wasn't willing to work hard.

It's not a coincidence that since guys like Dubinsky, James Wisniewski, and Jack Johnson have taken over the leadership of this team that its work ethic and push-back have skyrocketed. This team may thrive without one true Captain, but if the had to pick someone my guess is it would be Dubinsky.

I wrote the recap for the Jackets' first game against New Jersey way back when, and an interesting thing popped out of the post-game interviews in the room. In talking about Dubinsky and a tough hit he took in the game, Cam Atkinson said, "He's our leader, for sure. I think it's pretty obvious. I love playing with him. It was a tough play [for him], but that's what he does. That's what he brings day-in and day-out for us."

That's what it is, people. Dubinsky has the respect of his teammates, and we're seeing him shine on the brightest stage right now. He's going out every night against the best player in the world, and frustrating the hell out of him. At the same time, he's leading him team in points, and going all-out, all the time.

Whatever I had apparently heard on the day of the trade that Dubi didn't play hard all the time was either all in the past, or completely untrue. He may not ring up tons of points, but he is the conscience of this team during the season, and he's showing that he's one of the main catalysts of it in the playoffs. These Jackets aren't just happy to be in the post-season, and honestly won't be satisfied just pushing Pittsburgh to the brink, or even knocking them out.

And that attitude is what this franchise was missing.

That what Dubinsky has brought.

So, yeah. From a pure talent stand-point, Dubinsky may not have been an "asset" in that trade. But, he may also prove to have been the cornerstone of the deal when it's all said and done.

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