“Is Pierre-Luc Dubois the missing piece for the Canadiens? Breaking down his performance and potential fit in Montreal”

2023-04-30 07:00:00

Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness did not make it easy for his general manager Thursday night, minutes following his team was eliminated. In a brief and biting press briefing that he regrets a bit, Bowness said in essence that his best players had offered no resistance to prevent them from losing in five games once morest the Vegas Golden Knights.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, the one whose arrival in Montreal has been predicted for almost a year, is part of the core of the Jets. He is one of their two best center players and there is no doubt that he was one of the players targeted by his head coach’s claims.

“It’s the same shit we saw in February,” Bowness said of his team’s play. As soon as we started fighting for first place and the other teams were waiting for us, we stopped fighting back. »

Bowness refers to a tipping point which, ironically, originated from a 4-1 loss at the Bell Center once morest the Canadiens on January 17th. From then on, things gradually got out of hand for the Jets, who had just taken first place in the Western Conference. During a slide that lasted nearly two months, between Jan. 17 and March 8, the Jets posted a 7-12-2 record. It almost cost them a playoff spot.

Here’s what the production of the Jets’ key players looked like during that streak:

The Jets between January 17 and March 8

Previously, Dubois had amassed 49 points in 44 games, a tally that allowed him to reach personal highs this season despite his second-half loss.

During the first round series once morest the Golden Knights, Dubois did not return to the player he was in the first half of the season. The trio he formed with Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele were certainly dominant in a 5-1 victory in the first game, but things were spoiled followingwards. He put his team in trouble in Game 3 by taking three penalties and had no impact in Game 5 as the Jets battled for survival.

We should not conclude that despite his style of play, Dubois is not cut out for the playoffs. In 2019-20, among other things, he had a resounding series in the uniform of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But when it comes to this season, when Bowness links midseason woes to the Jets’ playoff performance, Dubois’ underperformance stands out as a common denominator.

No, Bowness hasn’t made it easy for his GM Kevin Cheveldayoff as the Jets come to a crossroads. Star goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and forwards Scheifele and Blake Wheeler will all become unrestricted free agents at the end of next season, while Dubois, who is due to return to the bargaining table this summer, has already indicated that he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal in Winnipeg. Maybe he changed his mind, but his situation helps to ensure that the death knell has probably sounded for this core of players who, in Bowness’s eyes, do not stand up when it counts.

It’s not normal that a 24-year-old center looking like a power forward, capable of producing around 60 points a year without any problem, should be jeered at in this way and that Winnipeg fans, frustrated to see him too dominant than inconstant, are fulminating at the moment. He’s the kind of player you should want to keep, the kind of rare ingredient that goes hand in hand with creating a winning team.

There is a lot of speculation that arose from his refusal last year to sign a long-term contract with the Jets and the admission by his agent, Pat Brisson, that he would like to play for the Canadiens. .

“It’s true, there are a lot of false things going around, a lot of people say they heard this or that,” Dubois told Winnipeg media on Saturday. In the end, I said nothing, I did nothing. It’s just speculation. I haven’t made a decision yet. We just lost, our season ended just two days ago. People speculated all year when nothing new happened. People speculated non-stop. I can’t prevent that. But like I said, haven’t stopped to think regarding all that yet. »

Should the recent playoffs as well as a variable intensity second half of the season deter the Canadiens from acquiring Dubois? I do not believe. But there are starting to be several signals suggesting the team should think twice regarding rolling out the red carpet for him.

If the fundamental desire of Dubois is indeed to wear the tricolor uniform, the Canadian cannot ignore this feeling which is extremely rare among the stars of the league. It’s precious. But he doesn’t have to get on his knees for that to happen either.

We just spent a year talking regarding developing and establishing a culture at the Canadiens. A year to build a springboard that should serve all the players of the team. If the foundations that have been laid are really solid, maybe they can help take Dubois to another level.

So far, his career has taken place in two environments – Columbus and Winnipeg – which have sometimes been described as more or less dysfunctional. We might very well understand the Canadian to say to himself that with what he has put in place, with the influence of Martin St-Louis and the positive momentum that there is around the organization, Dubois would finally in a favorable environment to flourish.

In fact, it’s imperative that he thinks that way if he’s going to move forward. It’s not just that Dubois would be an accelerator to make CH competitive faster, it’s also that there is a possibility of making Dubois more than he is.

But this is precisely where the trap lies. That of running following a fad, a fantasy, and not following the player as he is today.

Dubois will be 25 in June. He came to the NHL at age 19 and already has over 400 games of league experience. He’s not a developmental draft like Kirby Dach was following 152 games for the Chicago Blackhawks. Dubois has a solid background and we have a good idea of ​​the player he is.

In terms of age and production over the past six seasons, these forwards are the closest in performance to Dubois. We note in particular the identical path of Jesper Bratt who, following his entry contract, signed a two-year contract, followed by a one-season agreement. One year from full autonomy, and still holding arbitration rights, Bratt will have to negotiate at the end of the playoffs with the New Jersey Devils, who will also have their hands full with the Timo Meier file.

If we go back a few years, we can find other comparable players who have produced at the same rate as Dubois at similar ages, which helps us to identify in which bracket of players the Quebec forward falls.

Comparables of previous years

player

Pts/PJ

PJ

B

A

PTS

AGE

PERIOD

0.73

416

136

167

303

19-24

2015-16 / 2020-21

0.72

373

111

157

268

20-25

2012-13 / 2017-18

0.72

411

123

173

296

21-26

2011-12 / 2016-17

0.71

352

110

139

249

21-25

2016-17 / 2020-21

0.70

434

129

173

302

19-24

2017-18 / 2022-23

0.70

450

92

222

314

21-26

2013-14 / 2018-19

0.69

385

95

172

267

19-24

2012-13 / 2017-18

0.68

413

123

159

282

20-25

2016-17 / 2021-22

0.68

425

91

198

289

20-25

2014-15 /2019-20

0.67

433

116

173

289

19-24

2015-16 / 2020-21

0.67

433

101

187

288

19-24

2011-12 / 2016-17

Here’s a range of players who certainly solidify a formation, but whose value varies depending on the other tasks they can perform and the intangibles they bring or don’t bring.

If we stick only to the comparables among the 19-24 seasons, Jonathan Huberdeau constitutes an ideal outcome and Dylan Larkin a completely desirable comparable. In the logic of the new culture of the Canadian put at the service of the development of Dubois, one might not hope for better than these two cases.

The case of Ryan Johansen, on the other hand, is there to serve as a warning. It is often said that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. However, not everything always progresses. Everything is not always better in another environment.

Even though he once expressed a desire to leave the Blue Jackets and doesn’t plan on a long-term deal with the Jets, that doesn’t mean Dubois would want a change of scenery three years following his arrival in Montreal. . Again, if the desire to play here is a lifelong dream for Dubois, perhaps there is a new dimension to his identity as a player that would reveal being part of the Canadiens. A bit like Artemi Panarin who dreamed of playing for Rangers and whose heart was in New York. He saved his career best seasons for the Blue Shirts. It would be ideal if the same thing happened with Dubois.

But until proven otherwise, Dubois is not Panarin.


We can see the popular reaction in Montreal coming from here. Dubois would immediately be perceived as Le Gars, the one who comes to change the face of the organization. Many succumbed to this temptation when Jonathan Drouin arrived in Montreal, and the excessive expectations gave him a hard time.

Once parachuted into Montreal, imagining that he would magically become the Canadiens’ best player would therefore be of no use to anyone.

From the perspective of the Canadiens, there is a strange equation to solve: attract a player by giving him a special status, but then work to erase this status and ensure that Dubois is one among many others. There’s coaching in that, but there’s public relations too.

Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes must take note of what Dubois has shown since entering the NHL and, more recently, the criticisms of Bowness that were addressed to him among others. They must assess him with his strengths and weaknesses, and make sure not to tear their shirts to secure his long-term services.

Usually, the balance of power between a player who enjoys some form of autonomy is limited to the player and his team. Dubois holds the big end of the stick compared to the Jets, and he would maximize his power by testing the market in the summer of 2024. However, in this case, Dubois’ interest in the Canadiens incorporates another deal. equation, and the dynamic between Dubois and the CH does not have to be strictly in favor of the player.

If a hypothetical transaction was linked to the negotiation of a new contract, the Canadian should absolutely draw a line not to be crossed and see if Dubois’ interest in him can allow him to extract some form of ‘hometown discount’. In other words, impose your own parameters rather than submit to the wishes of the player: “Do you want to come and play with us? Here are the conditions for it to make sense for us”.

Could this abort a transaction and encourage Dubois to go on the free agent market next year? If so, so be it. Because by acquiring him and making him his highest paid player, the Canadian should be sure that Dubois has what it takes to wear this label, which is rightly or wrongly mixed up with that of the best team player.

On the surface, the opportunity seems to be presented to the Canadiens on a silver platter, but it is not without risk.

Dubois still wants to come to Montreal? Tremendous. The Canadian would be a better team with him. But please don’t go into it blindly.

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