Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
Dane Dobbie of the Calgary Roughnecks is in the PLPA Player Spotlight. by TY PILSON
Dane Dobbie is arguably the best off-ball forward in the NLL.
Stealth captain and veteran league defender Curtis Hodgson certainly gave him a ringing endorsement.
In an earlier PLPA profile, Hodgson was asked the question: Who's the toughest player for you to go up against in the NLL?
His answer: "Tough question because there are so many talented players in the NLL. I match up mostly against left-handed players. In my opinion, the best two-man game player in the league is Dane Dobbie. He is excellent at finding a defender's back and rolling to the net. He also doesn't need much room in front of the net to catch and put the ball in the net."
While Dobbie has a solid one-on-one game to beat defenders when he has the ball in his stick, he is most effective creating confusion for opposing defences, setting picks and finding seams through defenders that most other players can't. He also has one of the quickest releases in tight, getting the ball out of his stick and often behind the goalie before the 'tender realizes what happened.
Coming out of junior where he played with the Burnaby Lakers, Dobbie - who was drafted fourth overall by Calgary in 2007 - was like most young offensive standouts, used to being the ‘man' and having the ball go through him on most plays. Dobbie dressed for just five games in 2008 on a Roughnecks team that had a stacked attack, and decided very quickly that there was a better way for him to play and find success as a pro.
"(Playing off ball is) something I grew accustomed to when I started playing with Josh Sanderson. I just tried to keep the ball out of my stick and tried to get open and get to the middle of the floor, " said Dobbie.
"I think it helped me a lot to realize that every time you go on the floor there are five excellent offensive guys and everybody can't have the ball all at once so you have to do other things and guys are smart enough to get you the ball. You have to get inside to make defenders turn and find their back and a lot of it comes down to the guys I'm playing with opening up backs for me, " he added. "So a lot of credit is due to the guys I'm playing with on the left side. "
Also blessed with a fantastic outside shot - with his go-to far side, top corner - Dobbie has become one of the most prolific scorers in league history.
After the 2008 season, he earned a starting spot in Calgary, playing all 16 games in the 2009 season and scoring 41 goals and 76 points.
In nine NLL seasons, Dobbie has scored more than 30 goals in every one of them but two: in 2012 when he played just 13 games and scored 28 and last season when he played 13 again and scored 26. Both seasons he was battling injuries. He scored a career-high 51 goals in 2014, joining an elite group of players to have achieved that mark in the NLL.
He is third in Riggers franchise scoring with 577 points in 125 games, but leads in all-time goals with 296, passing Kaleb Toth (274) last season.
He has proven to be deadly man-up for the club, his 96 power play goals also a franchise record. To put that into context, Tracey Kelsey is second with 58. Utilizing his outside shot and ability to find open floor behind defenders makes him especially lethal on special teams.
As for that penchant to go to the dirty area in front of the net to get many of his goals, he says his game is a reflection of how he was raised to play lacrosse.
"It's something I grew up with, " said Dobbie. "My dad and my grandpa always said you have to take a hit to make a play. I go to the middle of the floor trying to score a goal but knowing I'm going to get hit. That's just lacrosse - that's the name of the game. If stuff ain't falling for you on the outside shots you have to get to the middle and get those inside shots. When you go to the net, you know you're going to pay a price. But hopefully the ultimate price is you're going to get a goal. It's something I've grown up with and I don't think I'll ever lose that. "
Another area where Dobbie has shone is coming out the front door on transition breaks, where he rarely fails to capitalize on a naked look on the goalie. "When you get that opportunity, I consider it a breakaway and you have to put the ball in the net; it's the easiest time in the game to score, one-on-one with the goalie when you're going full speed, " said Dobbie. "You have to take the advantage there and bury the ball when you can. I'd rather go one-on-one with a goalie than go one-on-one with a defender and try and still beat the goalie. "
While Dobbie is at or near the top of every offensive statistical category for the Roughnecks, he also sits on a lofty perch with it comes to penalty minutes with the third most at 189.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder spent much of his early career playing the role of agitator, always happy to chirp and needle opposing players, willing to take whacks and hacks and nasty checks in order to try and get them off their game. That behaviour didn't endear him to the rest of the league and as he's got older, his on-floor demeanour has changed. While he still does some jawing, he said he's learned to focus his energy elsewhere.
"When I came into this league I would say anything to anybody and just go out there and do whatever it took to try and get a guy mad at me or draw his attention to get a guy to hit me, try and draw penalties and all that type of stuff but over the years I've kind of mellowed out a bit, " said Dobbie. "I still play with a lot of emotion … but I don't make everybody pissed off at me on the floor. So hopefully I don't get as much pain and punishment as I used to get all game.It's one of those things where you direct your energy and emotions to the right things during the game and I've learned that over my career. "
Despite a bumpy regular-season in 2016, Dobbie was in top form in the playoffs, scoring five goals and 13 points to finish second in team scoring during their three-game playoff run that ended against the eventual champion Rush. And none of those goals was bigger than the overtime marker he scored in the one-and-done West Division semifinal against the favoured Mammoth, finding the back of the net with an outside shot to end what had been a 10-minute plus OT marathon. He said it was the biggest goal he'd ever scored.
"That was one the games where I could turn it back on today and not even remember half the shifts because we were so tired and exhausted, " said Dobbie. "Both teams were completed drained (in overtime) and completely exhausted. To quiet 18,000 people at once (when he scored) and you could hear a pin drop in that building was a pretty cool feeling. "
With his tenth NLL season on the horizon, Dobbie admits he still pinches himself sometimes to think the game he loved and played growing up now has him dressing before home crowds of more than 12,000 cheering him on.He never loses sight of how lucky he is to do what he does.
"Every time I walk into that arena it's something special, to be honest with you, or any arena, " said Dobbie. "You never know when your last game is going to be in this sport. You never know what injury you could get in that game that puts you out for life. Every game now I play like it's my last. "
5 QUESTIONS WITH DANE DOBBIE
|At what age did you start playing lacrosse and how did you get involved in the game?|
I started playing lacrosse at the age of 3. I was taught the game from my grandfather and dad. They both played at a high level.
|Who's the toughest player for you to go up against in the NLL?|
|This is a tough one. There are a lot of great defenders in our league. If I had to choose one it would be Kyle Rubisch. I usually play against him for guaranteed four games a year and then usually a couple playoff games. Just a big, strong, smart defender
|What are your pre-game superstitions?|
|I like to get to the arena very early before a game usually three hours, especially at home games. Get the same guy to tape me up throughout the year. Just a few little things, nothing major.
|Describe your stick setup: What type of pocket, how many shooting strings, whip on a scale of 1-10, etc.?|
|My stick has a high pocket with four shooting strings. The ball usually sits on the bottom shooter. I string all my sticks the same. With a higher pocket it allows me to release the ball quicker.
|Who is your lacrosse idol?|
|I would have to say my dad and grandpa. My dad coached me all the way through and was tough on me which I believe made me a better player. My grandpa was very supportive of me. He never missed a game.
Ty Pilson has been covering the NLL since 2000 for the Calgary Sun, Inside Lacrosse and ilindoor.com. He was named the Tom Borrelli Award winner as the league's media person of the year in 2007. Having played the game growing up and being passionate about the sport, he is active in Calgary's lacrosse community as a coach and board member with the Axemen minor lacrosse association.