1. The Jets have not drafted and developed a centre for a few years now. What type of young centre should the Winnipeg Jets expect from Pierre-Luc Dubois?
Pierre-Luc Dubois is everything we hoped for when the Jackets shocked the world by drafting him at #3 in 2016. He plays a tenacious 200 foot game. He was equally comfortable as a sidekick to Artemi Panarin for two seasons, and as the driver of play with less gifted linemates last season. He’s the kind of guy you love to have, but who your rivals will hate as he incites a shoving match in front of the net after the whistle blows.
I don’t think he’ll ever make it to the elite tier of centers in the league, but he’s been a 1C on a competitive team, and can be a great 2C on a Cup contender.
2. Pierre-Luc Dubois drew attention in the playoffs for his play. Has his level of play always been there or was that a player hitting a hot streak?
He never struck me as a streaky player. Instead, there has been steady development in his game. His coming-out party in the postseason was just the next step, after he had been relatively quiet in the playoffs in his first two seasons.
3. The Jets have been struggling on the penalty kill forever. Is that a place that Pierre-Luc Dubois could assist them or is he normally only used 5 vs 5 or on the power play?
Pierre-Luc Dubois was not part of the Jackets’ penalty kill. There were enough other defensive-minded forwards who Torts turned to first. I think that he has the skillset to play on the kill in Winnipeg. I could see him making it a “power kill” like Columbus had when guys like Cam Atkinson and Josh Anderson were on their game, where they could convert on shorthanded attempts.
4. There were a lot of rumours as to why Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted to be traded. Do you have any insight into the request or was this something that was always going to happen?
Hooo boy. The only one who knows for sure is Pierre-Luc Dubois himself, and he keeps refusing to give a reason. There are many theories, and people tend to believe the ones which confirm their priors. On the other hand, there’s evidence against each theory as well. Did he hate Columbus? No, because he bought a new downtown condo in September. Did the Jackets try to nickel-and-dime him like Ryan Johansen or Josh Anderson? No. He got fair value on his bridge deal, and his agent said it was a quick, easy, professional negotiation. An eight year deal was on the table, but it was PLD’s decision to go short-term. Was he concerned about the long-term plan for the team? Perhaps, since there were few players locked up beyond summer 2022. That being said, that means there’s plenty of cap space then to lock in the core players and extend the window of being competitive. Did he clash with Torts? There was that infamous incident in the bubble where Torts yelled at him on the bench, but he went out the next game and scored a hat trick. He has said he likes playing for a coach that pushes him, and even after the trade was still complimentary of Torts. Did he resent the political views of his teammates? (I really hate this theory) He may disagree with them, but I’ve never gotten the impression that any were as nutty or outspoken as Tony DeAngelo. Plus, there are right-wing players on every team. Was he upset that his teammates were reckless about COVID, and that he got it from them? We don’t know for sure which players tested positive in November. I’ve heard rumors of a birthday party at a bar, and if they’re true then he was likely one of the ones there. Did he want to play on a bigger stage, or in a market that cared more about hockey? This one is more difficult to rebut. The Jackets don’t get many national games in the US despite their recent success. In Columbus, Ohio State football is and always will be king, but the Jackets have a passionate and growing fanbase. The team doesn’t do a great job of marketing individual players, however. Most can go about their lives without getting recognized, but many seem to like that anonymity.
In the end, I don’t know that it was any one thing. It may have been a combination of a lot of little things that started to add up. I’d like to know for sure, so the organization could make any changes to keep the next young star from leaving. Enough have wanted out that it’s a bit of a trend, but the circumstances around each departure were different.
5. Paul Maurice has drawn the ire of some fans in Winnipeg for a while due to some of his coaching behaviours. Do you get the sense that the same thing is happening with John Tortorella or is PLD an isolated incident?
I don’t think Torts was the reason why PLD wanted out in the first place, but I do think that Torts’ behaviour towards him after the request was made public helped to hasten PLD’s departure. PLD’s agent has blasted Torts for having talked about the situation so often to the media. There were reports that the assistant coaches were instructed not to talk to PLD during camp. Obviously the last straw was when Torts benched PLD after just five shifts during a game against Tampa. Despite the “Torts gonna Torts” narrative, however, most people in the hockey world seemed to agree that Torts was justified, and PLD’s behaviour was unprofessional. To use the parlance of the AITA Reddit: ESH - Everybody Sucks Here.
To the extent that Torts’ behaviour accelerated the timeline of the trade, he is beginning to wear thin on fans here. The team’s on-ice struggles to start the season haven’t helped, with last season’s difficulty scoring continuing in addition to a regression from the top defenders. Torts’ contract expires at the end of the season and there hasn’t been any reporting about an extension. It seems likely that Torts may retire this summer, and that could be the best thing for both sides. Torts has done a lot to change the direction of this franchise and establish an identity, and most of the players love playing for him, but even a good coach’s message can get stale. A fresh voice could be needed to take this roster to the next level.