Last night’s tilt between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens marked the first since the Flames’ home opener that Dillon Dube was not playing the center position. Throughout his career, Dube has moved between all three forward positions, but has mostly played on the wing for Calgary. This is mostly due to an organizational weakness at right wing, but Dube has said he feels comfortable playing all three positions nonetheless.
With 10 consecutive games under his belt as a center, does he fit better on this team down the middle or on the wing?
Dube’s line combinations
To qualify things before we dive into the stats, Dube has played within several different line combinations both at center and on the wing.
For the first two games of the season, Dube was at left wing alongside Sean Monahan and Andrew Mangiapane. The next seven games saw Dube at center with Mangiapane and Brett Ritchie on the wings. For the next four games, Milan Lucic replaced Ritchie on the wing. The last game had Dube on the wing with Mikael Backlund and Trevor Lewis.
For the purposes of this evaluation, we combined all games that Dube played at center, and combined all games Dube played on the wing.
On the wing, Dube scored just one point at 5v5 through three games, a single assist in the season opener. At center, Dube scored one goal and five points through 10 games. On a per game basis, it’s fairly consistent, but definitely tilted towards center.
Interestingly, Dube fired 10 shots on goal playing on the wing, and 15 playing at center. That breaks down to 1.5 shots per game while at center and 3.3 shots per game while on the wing.
In terms of possession metrics, Dube performed better across the board when he played on the wing.
All three major possession metrics, Corsi, scoring chances, and high danger chances, all came in significantly higher when Dube was on the wing as opposed to center. That being said, his numbers at center were pretty good and he was above 53% in all three metrics playing down the middle.
The clear winner here is Dube on the wing as his line simply dominated opponents and owned the lion’s share of chances.
On-ice actual and expected goals
Looking deeper at goals and expected goals, it’s more of the same story.
At center, more goals were scored both for and against when Dube was on the ice. Dube came ahead with two more goals scored than allowed for a 58% GF%, and on the wing he was an even 50%. However, Dube generated significantly more expected goals while on the wing.
In fact, Dube didn’t even allow a single expected goal against and owned an incredible 74% xGF while on the wing. At center, just like before, his numbers are still good and above the 50% mark, but nowhere near the extremely impressive numbers from his time on the wing.
It’s interesting to note that Dube started 67% of his shifts in the offensive zone both at center and on the wing. Nothing really changed with that stat so it makes comparing the above metrics a bit more fair as well.
The best spot for Dube
From what we’ve seen so far, it seems like the clear winning position for Dube is on the wing. It would give the Flames considerable center depth if Dube could stick at center, but he has significantly better on-ice stats when on the wing. His current line with Backlund and Lewis played extremely well against the Canadiens, and there probably isn’t much of a reason to switch this line any time soon.
Dube is a very versatile player and gives the Flames many different options p front. For now, it’s probably best to keep him on the wing as the Flames look to snap a two game losing streak and get back into the win column.