Last January, Winnipeg Jets’ General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff pulled the trigger on the biggest trade of his career, sending disgruntled winger Patrik Laine and centre Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois, who coincidentally was also not happy with his situation in Ohio. All three players were first-round draft picks, but the focus of the trade was on Laine, who was selected 2nd overall by the Jets in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and Dubois, who happened to be the very next pick at third taken by Columbus.
Tonight will mark the first time he has faced his former teammates or set foot in Nationwide Arena, where the Blue Jackets call home. However, he won’t face his former head coach John Tortorella, who was not offered a new contract at the end of last season, and one whose fiery personality and heated press conferences made it clear he was not happy with Dubois. He also won’t play against Laine, who is currently on the injured reserve list and out until mid-December with an oblique strain.
Dubois Struggled After Trade
In his first season with the Jets, Dubois admittedly had a poor campaign. During the trade drama in Columbus and to this day, he has never publicly given a reason why he wanted out. Some have speculated that the relationship between him and Tortorella was beyond repair. The simple fact was that for whatever reason his play was being affected by the off-ice drama and his ice time reflected that as Tortorella benched him twice and made it very clear he was unhappy with Dubois.
Once the trade was announced, Dubois spent 14 days in quarantine before meeting a teammate in person, then struggled to find his place in an already established roster. A lack of routine, an anxious and mentally draining experience in Columbus, and a new club with a new dynamic in a Covid shortened and unpredictable season left the 22-year-old simply lost, and his play and stats reflected as much. Jets fans were left to wonder if Cheveldayoff blew it with this trade.
At the season exit interview Dubois, to his credit, said he was going to refocus and come to camp in shape and ready to contribute significantly more in 2021-22. That’s a promise he has kept! In the first 17 games of the season, he has scored 10 goals and added six assists, had an eight-game point streak and he’s averaging in the neighbourhood of 20 minutes of ice time per game. But there is one set of stats that truly reflects his level of play this season and that’s his ability to get the puck to the net.
Dubois’ Turnaround Could Mean Trouble for the Blue Jackets
In 17 games this season, he has taken 54 shots on goal. Last year, he managed just 69 shots on goal with the Jets in 41 games! That’s an increase of almost exactly twice as many shots per game. Adding to that increase is the simple fact that his 10 goals thus far, are two more than he scored for the Jets all of last season, and he is currently on pace to score 48 goals this year. In contrast, the players that were traded for Dubois aren’t fairing as well. Laine has three goals in nine games and Roslovic has only scored twice in 16 games. If you do the math, and that’s what I’m good at (retired math teacher over here), they are on a pace to score 37 goals… combined! And those would be the totals of each player’s current pace barring injury and it has already been mentioned that Laine is recovering from one.
No one is arguing that Dubois hasn’t produced for the Jets this season, he is arguably the team’s MVP but at the end of last season, there was definitely some doubt that the Jets’ GM had signed off on a poor trade. Laine was supposed to be the axle the Jets’ offence spun on for years to come, as was Dubois in Columbus. For different reasons both players needed and asked for a change, and they got it, yet only one has given their new team the offensive numbers their former teams received.
It’ll be interesting to see how Dubois is welcomed when he steps on the ice. There will be some jeers from the crowd, as he was not popular when he was traded and it was not a happy fan base that saw him dealt, with many feeling it was simply time for him to go. Hopefully, there will also be a little respect shown for a young man who retooled and refocused his game in another city and is thriving early this year. Obviously, we won’t know until game time.
Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.