For the price tag the Jets paid for Dubois, he didn’t exactly ‘show out’ the season prior, being conveyed in the postseason sweep of Edmonton and the hunter becoming prey in Montreal sweeping the Jets. Phillip Danault is due some credit here; Mark Scheifele and the Jets top line carried the team over the Oilers in their first-round triumph. Due to Mark Scheifele rocking Jake Evans at the end of game four, suspending him for four games, Dubois was forced to match up against Danault for the rest of the round. Paul Maurice didn’t show the same level of trust John Tortorella had shown during Dubois’ tenure with the Jackets. Dubois saw an 8.9% deployment in the defensive zone, per Moneypuck.com. The suspension became pivotal, and Dubois failed to have any pushback in the matchup against Danault.
After the trade to Winnipeg, Dubois was a 0.46 p/game player and registered three assists in seven games in the playoffs. His prior tenure with the Jackets and his playoff resume left the Jets organization and fanbase in a state of confusion. Freshly turning the young age of 23, Dubois needed a bounce-back year after a disappointing welcome party and first year with the Jets.
“Jets nation is hoping for a resurgence of Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 23-year-old showpiece in the Patrik Laine deal from a year ago who didn’t live up to the hype last season.
Dubois has looked far more like himself and for good reason. There’s no messy divorce in the back of his mind, no shock of being traded, or the unsettling feeling of quarantine. He’s healthy, too. He’s quicker, stronger and has had time — consistent time — to develop a chemistry with Nikolaj Ehlers to his right and Andrew Copp on the left“Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun, October 2021
Dubois would get every opportunity to shine during the Jets’ prime frame of the core’s window. Projected as the 2C behind the top-heavy line of Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler, Dubois was given ample opportunity to munch on lesser competition. During his second-half tenure on the Jackets, Dubois played and showcased his potential as a number one center. Boone Jenner was deployed as more of a top center for situational, but in the case of the Jets, Scheifele would be the true, all-around 1C.
The Jets looked to check most boxes needed to go on a championship run. Elite wingers, remarkable center depth, a well-rounded defensive core, and an elite goaltender. They also had young prospects in Logan Stanley and Cole Perfetti knocking at the door.
However, 28 games into the season, the 13-10-5 Jets were middling around in the Central division, undeniably underperforming to their potential. What occurred was a shocking move from one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league.
The longest-tenured coach in Jets history resigned in a stunning fashion. Yes, the team was underperforming, but they were three games over 500 and had plenty of runways left to make a crack at greater performance. Maurice depicted his exit as running into a wall, and he broke this down by saying that he hit a point where he felt he took the team as far as he could. Someone else would have to come in and take the team further. Maurice also mentioned the difficulties of coaching during Covid-19, describing that it takes away the love for the game.
Maurice had one more year on his contract with the team before he left the role. His coaching record in Winnipeg finished with 315-223-62 in exactly 600 games. His tenure spanned over nine seasons with the Jets. Dave Lowry, the then assistant coach, would take over for the interim. Dubois, under these circumstances, actually blossomed, moving away from playing with Ehlers and Copp.
“Connor has been able to combine his elite hands along with his game-breaking speed and become one of the best goal scorers in the NHL. He has been able to find chemistry with Dubois that was not there last season, as they have become the Jets’ dynamic duo of the future”Connor Hrabchak, Hockey Writers: Jan 2022
The chemistry that had been desired the year prior in Winnipeg was realized. Most teams effectively have their duos that make matching up very difficult. They had previously tried Wheeler and Dubois, which was ineffective, as well as Svechnikov and Ehlers. Due to the opportunity presented, Kyle Connor and Pierre Luc Dubois were finally coming together to be an electric duo that imposed its will upon other teams. At about the halfway mark of the season, Dubois had 18 goals and 13 assists. Dubois was on track to break his career high in point totals.
During the season, Dubois had stints on the top line, mostly as a winger. He would excel in his brief periods in the elevated role. This would become a feature in the year to come.
The Jets, as a team, were struggling. They had weathered a campaign full of adversity, with injuries, covid, and postponed games. Despite being a consistent play driver and finally finding a rhythm in Winnipeg, the team was slouched, and they were in the midst of battling for the fifth spot in the Central Division. During this time, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was kicking the tires on Dubois’ agent on a new potential contract.
The Jets would falter, finishing sixth in their division. They were sellers at the deadline, sending off Andrew Copp. Dubois set a new career high in goals with 28 and led the Jets with 15 power play goals. Dubois was much more engaged than in his initial year in Winnipeg. To show his engagement, he delivered 112 hits while producing 60 points overall. The 23-year-old also led the NHL in penalties drawn and penalties taken. He was a high 40% faceoff man on draws, which has plagued Dubois during his career thus far. Overall, he was a key member of the 2021-22 Jets, referenced by his total usage compared to the rest of the team.
The Contract Negotiation
“Montreal is a city he would probably … I can talk about it because he doesn’t have a contract at the moment – he’s a restricted free agent. Montreal is a place, a city he’d like to play in. That’s all I can say about that.”Pat Brisson, agent for Pierre Luc Dubois
Dubois had arbitration rights as a restricted free agent but did not choose to file for a hearing. Dubois’ contract situation exposed the team to a potential offer sheet, possibly holding onto extra cap space in the situation an offer sheet would come through. The Jets and Dubois, despite the rumor mill churning over Dubois wanting to be back in his hometown of Montreal, agreed on a one-year deal for 6 million. Part of the deal was that Dubois made it clear that he wanted to test the open market in the summer of 2024.
The key departures were Paul Stasny, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Zach Sanford. The Jets added top draft pick gone wrong and journeyman Sam Gagner. The more polarizing theme for the Jets had their “future” no. 1 center under contract for another year. With Mark Scheifele’s contract expiring in 2024, the Jets surprisingly kept their roster mostly intact from the previous season. The future of their top two centers were uncertain, with Dubois’ future more uncertain even though he was brought in to be the no. 1 for years to come.
The first step forward for this team was a strong hand at the helm, which they did by bringing in Rick Bowness. Bowness is a traditional, old-school type coach who was tenured by Dallas prior to Winnipeg. He coached the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. As a coach, he demands more out of his top-line players (like most coaches), but some of his new top-line players are some of his biggest defensive liabilities. He easily gives more freedom to defensemen to join in the rush. His system was also to implement a better defensive structure to ease some of the pressure off of Connor Hellebuyck.
“Dubois rebounded from a miserable start in Winnipeg with a season that, in plenty of spots, was better than Scheifele’s; he hasn’t come all that close to Scheifele’s level of production, but his 200-foot game is in an undeniably better state. Jets beat writer Murat Ates — with data and firsthand experience to support him — said Dubois was often the Jets’ best center last season”The Athletic, Season Preview: September 2022
One of the first actions of the season, longtime Jets player and captain Blake Wheeler was stripped of his captaincy. The group would be led by a group of alternate captains. Even after Paul Maurice’s resignation, there were still questions regarding the core leadership and culture in Winnipeg.
The Jets started the season carrying the injury bug but fared extremely well, given their circumstances. They entered the midseason mark with a record of 26-14-1, second-best in the Western Conference. Josh Morrissey was playing lights-out hockey at a level that would garnish Norris consideration. Mark Scheifele would have a resurgence and played some of his best hockey in recent years.
During the first half, Pierre Luc Dubois played the best hockey of his career. He was over a point-per-game player with 19 goals and 29 assists for 48 points in 41 games. He bonded and formed chemistry with young Cole Perfetti on his wing, forming another lethal pairing at the disposal of Rick Bowness.
The team would hit another gear of adversity due to the players that went down with injuries in January. The Jets took injury hits from Logan Stanley (22 games), Nate Schmidt (9), and Cole Perfetti (5), which essentially cooled off Perfetti. Following January’s injury wash, February proved to be a dreadful 3-5-2 overall record, followed by a subpar and average month of March going. 7-7-1. The record was improved to the injection of life provided by the trade for Nino Niederreiter. Between the end of February and the beginning of March, Dubois missed eight games due to a lower and upper body injury. After February 1st, Pierre Luc Dubois finished with 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points, and a minus 4 in 21 games to finish the season. Not good.
What was good? Dubois munched on competition at home with matchups, maintaining his point per game rate he established through the first half of the year (37GP 16G-21A-37P). His away stats do provide an inside look at how Dubois fares when the Jets did not control the matchups (36GP 11G-15A-26P). Dubois handled himself better than he did in any year prior while on the road, with his 82-road game pace at 72 points.
Matchup with Vegas
The Jets made the playoffs despite a struggling second half of the season. The Jets finished 4th in the Central after being in the race for best in the conference for half the year. As a wildcard team, they drew the number one seed from the Pacific Division, the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights owned the matchup during the regular season, going 3-0-0. Another storyline was the relationship between Connor Hellebuyck and the previous backup tender for the Jets, Laurent Brossoit.
“Overall, Vegas is the better team by a good margin, and is the deserved favorite in this matchup. Hellebuyck will need a miraculous performance to get the Jets out of the first round, but given how he’s played this season, that certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.”Jesse Granger, April 2023
Game One would be the best for Dubois, and he would add a goal and an assist in an excellent performance while mostly seeing Jack Eichel and (the return) Mark Stone of the Knights. He finished with 1-1-2, a plus 3 in 18:22 of ice time in a triumphant 5-1 win.
This would be the highest moment for the Jets, the Knights would finish off the Jets in four consecutive games following their defeat in game one at home. The stars of the Jets went invisible. The final four games, Dubois was just as guilty as the other stars on the Jets. In the final four games, Dubois would put up one goal (PP goal) and one assist. Rick Bowness would throw his stars under the bus in the worst type of way. He references January as a parallel to what happened in the series. “No pushback”
The Conclusionary Aspects
Pierre Luc Dubois got out of Winnipeg and is in Los Angeles now. He demanded a trade out of Columbus, but he didn’t demand one from Winnipeg. He simply said he wanted to test the market in 2024. He didn’t see a future in Winnipeg or Columbus. In Columbus, he had a historically difficult coach to deal with in John Tortorella. He was an extremely high pick that was seen as a future cornerstone for the Jackets. Add that ingredient with a young player under John Tortorella and a franchise that slowly falls apart around you. I probably would want to leave too.
Your head coach leaves in Winnipeg during your first full year with the organization. The longtime captain gets stripped of his captaincy the following season. Wheeler is ultimately bought out by the organization. The locker room in Winnipeg was questionable that as much is clear. Paul Maurice losing love for hockey and leaving? He just coached the Panthers to the finals. Dubois, after finishing a deep dive into his career: I don’t necessarily blame him for wanting to walk away from either situation.
His play style? What are the Kings getting?
Though he isn’t an elite number one center? He’s a number one center, maybe lowly projected, that lacks the consistency to get his game to an elite level. His work down low and near the net is already elite. His faceoff percentage during the regular season does bother me. However, his playoff faceoff percentage is much higher. More of a passer than a shooter, his vision is elite. He is shifty enough to escape most defenders down low, and his strength on his skates is a huge asset. Might pass first but don’t underestimate his shot, he’s pulled off this goal many times over the course of six years. That’s precision.
You put him in an organization with a HOF in Anze Kopitar and one of the best defensive centers in the game in Phillip Danault (Dubois should know: 2021 sweep), which should insulate Dubois’ game to the next level.
He’s only 25 (!) and has the opportunity to play for an organization with a standard in the locker room of Bonafide championship culture and a rising talent pool surrounded by peers his age, brought in to win a championship. a
Massive season coming for the Kings and Pierre Luc Dubois.