Tennis star Novak Djokovic famously became the top player in the world after switching to a gluten-free diet. In 2020, we could add Pierre-Luc Dubois to the list of other athletes who found success in their game without Bread.
Get it? Bread? Ok, fine, they can’t all be winners.
Anyway, after a standout first two years of his career — with Artemi Panarin on his wing — there was still some uncertainty as to whether Dubois could continue to produce at a 20ish goal, 60ish point pace without an elite linemate. The verdict? Yeah, he’s fine.
While nearly everyone else got bit by the injury bug, Dubois played all 70 games, following full 82 game seasons in his first two years. He was third on the team in goals but first in assists and points. That 49 points in 70 games is a 57 point pace over 82 games.
He doesn’t just stand out among his teammates, he also compares favorably to centers around the league. Among 55 centers (per Natural Stat Trick, so there are some actual wingers included) with at least 900 5v5 minutes in the regular season, Dubois ranked 11th in expected goal percentage. He was one behind Elias Pettersson and ahead of Claude Giroux, Panarin, Sebastian Aho, Max Domi, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, Ryan O’Reilly, Mathew Barzal, and many more good or great players.
The postseason forced the hockey world outside of Columbus to take notice. Dubois led the Jackets in goals, assists, and points and those ten points exceeded the nine total he had collected in 16 games over the previous two playoffs. He earned a point on nearly 40% of Columbus goals in the postseason.
Pierre-Luc Dubois 2019-20 Stats
Games Played: 70
5v5 CF%: 50.9
5v5 FF%: 52.1
Games Played: 10
5v5 CF%: 49.0
5v5 FF%: 50.8
Dubois has reached the end of his entry level contract, and is therefore a restricted free agent. Jarmo Kekalainen has said he is prepared to match any offer sheet, thus ensuring that Dubois plays for Columbus in 2021 no matter what. Of course, it shouldn’t take an offer sheet to get Dubois signed. He’s the most important forward on the team and one of the two best players on the team. True top line centers are worth their weight in goal, and he fits the bill.
With Max Domi in the fold, that should take some pressure off of the Dubois line to do everything. He should get a chance to produce more offense with a full season of Alexandre Texier and Oliver BJORKSTRAND on his wings. Even Torts wants to shift the team concept away from all defense, all the time:
“We feel good about ourselves with hard forechecking and grinding away, finding a way to score goals,” Tortorella said. “That’s a big part of who we are, and so we don’t want to lose that. But now with Domi in the mix, and with Luc and some of our offensively gifted players, we want to make plays with the puck and bang! It’s in the net.
“Goals like that help your confidence on that end of the ice. I want to see us loosen up offensively in our minds, that’s the most important thing. We have to stay with our foundation, but open ourselves up mentally, too, especially with the puck.”
PAY. THE. MAN.
In Game 3 vs. Toronto, the Jackets found themselves in a 3-0 hole halfway through the game. Dubois got them on the board just after a power play expired, then added two more goals to record the first playoff hat trick in franchise history and complete the comeback win. The third goal of the hat trick was the OT winner.
That Game 3 performance was all the more rewarding after a Game 2 to forget. Dubois played just 16:54 (his lowest of the postseason), was on ice for both even strength goals against, and was caught on camera getting chewed out by John Tortorella while sitting on the bench.
How would you grade Pierre-Luc Dubois’ season?
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