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Dubinsky's loyalty manifests as improved player

Thursday, 02.12.2009 / 9:41 PM / Hockey's Finest Presented by Army

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The next time you watch a New York Rangers game and there's a post-whistle scrum, or some pushing and shoving, there's a pretty good chance you'll see Brandon Dubinsky in the middle of the exchange.

Because that's the kind of loyalty Dubinsky said he believes teammates need to have for each other.

"Seeing somebody else take advantage of one of your teammates … it's almost like someone is hitting or hurting your little brother," Dubinsky told NHL.com. "You want to be in there and try and protect them, whatever that may be. If it's jump in there and have a fight or whatever, you get in there and let them know that if you're going to mess with him, you're going to mess with me."

That's the kind of dedication Dubinsky, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound center, has for all his teammates. Dubinsky said he thinks his 22 Rangers teammates return the favor.

"In order for a team to be successful, it's not only me doing it for everybody in here, but I know that everybody in here is going to do it for me, too," he said. "I think that's a huge part of any team being successful -- it's being willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for each other, no matter the circumstances."

For Dubinsky, the sacrifice has been fewer goals and points in exchange for more hits and faceoff wins. Dubinsky exploded out of the gate at the start of the season, scoring 4 goals and 11 points in his first 13 games playing on a line with Nikolai Zherdev and Aaron Voros. As the season has moved along, however, his offensive production -- he has 8 goals and 27 points in 54 games -- has been replaced by a high-intensity defensive effort that includes 147 hits, the second-most on the team, 19 blocked shots, and a team-best 51.4-percent success rate on faceoffs.

"It's another season I feel that I've improved," said Dubinsky. "Would I love to have 50 points now? Obviously, yeah (but) that's not everything for me and my career. I'm not going to be vying for the Hart Trophy on a yearly basis or anything like that. I feel like I've learned to accept a more responsible role. Defensively I can be counted on 100 percent. Faceoffs have really improved for me. And I think my skills have improved, too."

His coach certainly has noticed the improvements.

"I think he's improved his complete game," said Tom Renney. "It doesn't always translate into the type of points that a player wants or desires, but having said that, he's a really good two-way player. He's got power in his game, without a doubt he's really gritty and very confident."

"In order for a team to be successful, it's not only me doing it for everybody in here, but I know that everybody in here is going to do it for me, too. I think that's a huge part of any team being successful -- it's being willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for each other, no matter the circumstances."
-- Brandon Dubinsky

He's had to improve all aspects of his game this season, his second full NHL campaign. Last season he was a revelation with 14 goals and 40 points while playing all 82 games. He only played 14:29 per game last season, but the departures of veterans like Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka opened up ice time and led to an expanded role. He's averaging 16:19 of ice time per game now, and plays a larger role in shorthanded and power-play situations.

"I have a much different role and a lot higher expectations," said Dubinsky. "You have to find a way to fulfill that however you can. The biggest thing, and it's kind of boring, but you have to rise above everything else and have a positive attitude. You have to make sure you come to the rink with a good feeling and ready to work."

Loyalty takes many forms.

He shares that work ethic and value of loyalty to his teammates with his older brother, Bobby, a mechanic for C-130 transport planes who serves with the Alaska Air National Guard. Bobby Dubinsky currently is stationed in Alaska, but has spent time overseas in Japan and Germany.

"I have a lot of respect for those guys," said Brandon. "(The troops) are so courageous on a much higher level than I ever am on the ice."

They're also loyal to each other, becoming a family in the same way Dubinsky feels a kinship to the players in the New York dressing room.

"Being part of a team, being part of a family, you get to know these guys on a personal level," he said. "You come to work with them every day. You start to do everything with these guys. They become part of your family. Regardless of what happens, you always want each other to have success, to do well. If somebody gets hurt, it hurts you, too. You feel for the guy, you worry for a guy."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.





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