The decline of Brandon Dubinsky's play is an unfortunate reality.
He's one of the longest mainstays on the Blue Jackets' roster, but that time could be coming to an end in the form of a potential buyout.
Dubinsky's play has certainly not been up to par with his contract, which we ranked as the Blue Jackets' worst at an $5.85M AAV for the next two years. The centerman is the second-highest-paid player on the team behind Atkinson.
Throughout the year, Dubinsky dealt with injuries and sparse playing time. Almost of all his minutes came on the Blue Jackets' fourth line, whose rotating cast only made finding cohesion with teammates more difficult.
Dubinsky's stats tell the story of his year accurately. He had the worst +/- on the Blue Jackets at -16 and averaged just 12:21 of ice time — roughly five minutes less than his career average of 17:09.
Just 20.3% of his shifts began in the offensive zone, which illuminates the role that he served for John Tortorella's club in the 2018-19 campaign: a defensive specialist whose number one priority is to win faceoffs.
In the playoffs, the line of Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, and Riley Nash provided a surprising spark for the Blue Jackets. They drove play, created many chances, and were a general nuisance to play against. Tortorella may look to that combination in 2019-20.
Highlight of the Campaign
In Florida on January 5th, Dubinsky found himself with the puck in a two-on-one rush. He picked his corner and beat the goaltender to regain the lead for the Blue Jackets.
Dubinsky's outlook could be very different in a few weeks. Assuming he's still on the Blue Jackets' roster, which seems increasingly likely given the departures of four forwards (Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Lukas Sedlak), he'll almost undoubtedly fill a role on the fourth line once again.
As touched on above, his contract is a mess, and a buyout would be expensive. It's important to remember that Dubinsky's playstyle takes a toll on his body, and he may have to learn a less physical style of play to succeed next year, especially as play in the NHL becomes faster and faster.
Will Dubinsky be able to reverse the clock and produce a better year than what we've seen from the last two?