By JD Lagrange – The rumours are getting stronger and stronger about the possibility of seeing Pierre-Luc Dubois ending up in Montreal to play for the Canadiens. A few days ago, NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman did something he doesn’t do often, by getting not only his feet wet, but his entire body! Friedman stated that there were 95% chances that Dubois would end up with the Canadiens! That’s a strong statement from one of the NHL’s top insiders, something these guys usually try to avoid doing in case it doesn’t pan out.
Yet, many, many Habs’ fans are reluctant, pessimistic or even plain out against having Dubois with the Canadiens. We’ll get to what they consider “reasons” why in a bit but in the meantime, let’s look at how Dubois compares this season with the Canadiens two young offensive centers, Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach.
As you can see, Dubois is nose to nose with Suzuki in most categories, and ahead of Dach (although two years older, granted). But believe it or not, the point here is not to see which one is the better player. Rather, it’s to make fans understand that a three-headed monster like that is not often seen in the NHL.
I get to watch the Edmonton Oilers quite a bit (living with a huge fan) and they have three guys you might have heard of: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as their top-3 centers. Periodically, one of them will take a shift here and there on the other’s wing.
When you have that kind of quality depth up the middle, it gives a team flexibility. It makes it very difficult to defend as with three offensive lines, the opponents can only put their best checkers against one, maybe two lines. But also, if one goes down to injury, you still have two very good pivot for your top two lines. To relate to this season, you don’t have Christian Dvorak, Jake Evans, Rem Pitlick or Alex Belzile…
Fans can be very creative and sometimes, quite convincing when they want or don’t want something. We know that. In this case, it’s no different. Here are a list of the most common reasons – I call them excuses – they are providing to “support” their claim, and why I qualify them as excuses.
☞ Attitude issues
In his rookie season in Columbus, Dubois managed a very respectable 20 goals and 48 points. He followed that up with 27 goals and 68 points in his second season. But then… John Tortorella started messing with him, as he has done with numerous players before him (and after – see Laine). Humiliating him, yelling at his young player in plain view behind the bench, benching him periods at a time, Dubois saw no other option but to get away from the mad coach… as many others have done.
Then, there’s Winnipeg. There’s something very wrong out there. How often have we seen a head coach quit on his team, giving up on a guaranteed contract? Paul Maurice, a very well respected coach around the league, stated for his reason for quitting in mid-season, that the players “needed a new voice” behind the bench. In other words, the message wasn’t passing, or players did what they wanted.
Now look at that leadership group for a second. Blake Wheeler has a reputation around the NHL as a moody and hard to get along with individual. He’s the team captain. Is there a Habs’ fan out there who doesn’t remember Mark Scheifele? The guy whom, after a predatory hit on Jake Evans, never apologized, felt any remorse or taken any responsibility for it even after being suspended? He wears an “A” on his jersey in Winnipeg. A couple of days ago, new coach Rick Bowness was clearly not impressed with Scheifele. There seems to be some cancer in that dressing room…
By the way, Dubois didn’t ask to be traded from Winnipeg. He simply doesn’t see himself signing long term there, and one of the places he would like to play, according to his agent, is Montreal.
☞ Another Drouin
Give me a break! For one thing, Drouin is 5-foot 11-inches and is known to be soft as butter. Far from the case for Dubois, who is also better defensively than the Canadiens’ winger. Drouin’s career high is 53 points, a plateau that Dubois has surpassed three times already in his career so far. Not counting the fact that Dubois is a power forward, a big center.
Drouin didn’t ask to come to Montreal. He was traded there. Dubois wants to play in Montreal. That’s a huge difference.
☞ Because he’s French
Some people claim that the only reason why the Canadiens and fans want Dubois is because he’s from Quebec. That’s such a load of bull. How many team would take the 6-foot 4-inches center on their team, do you think? If they had the cap space, combined with the fact that he’s as effective at center and on the wing, 32 teams would want him. In fact, Winnipeg’s coach Rick Bowness is trying his hardest to convince him to stay. It has nothing to do with language, although admittedly, speaking French in Montreal is an added bonus. Not a criteria like coaching, but a bonus.
Since when do we jump on generalization stating that all players who speak the same language are the same, that because one or two didn’t work out, it won’t work out for everyone there after? You cannot hang Don Cherry in one breath, and make such claims yourself with the next! There have been plenty of French Canadians who have succeeded in Montreal and fans know it, even naysayers.
Are those the same fans cheering for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to succeed, even to have a secured spot on the team next year? Are those the same fans throwing Jake Allen under the bus while pushing for Samuel Montembeault to be the starter?
☞ Prospects coming
Yes, there are some very good prospects coming. In fact, force is to admit that Marc Bergevin’s reset, with the help of Trevor Timmins’ selections since then in 2018, were pretty darn good. But I’ve seen people already giving a spot to Owen Beck. For one, I am a strong believer that if you want the best team you can have, you don’t “save spots”, particularly not for rookies. Each spot on the team should be won in a fair battle.
But also, these folks seems to forget that this management group is putting the emphasis on player development. Not all players can (or should) make the jump from College or Junior hockey straight to the NHL. This past season has been an exception, mostly due to injuries. Most prospects will need time in the American Hockey League in Laval, or in Europe in order to continue developing, by playing at a level which will allow them to succeed and gain confidence. Many of us feel like that’s what they should have done with Juraj Slafkovsky this past season.
☞ Goes against what hughes wants
How so? Here’s a recent quote from Kent Hughes himself:
“We’re hopeful we have opportunities to trade for good, young players like a Kirby Dach, instead of using a draft pick for it. We’ll try to do that, and that’s kind of a way to expedite the timeline.” ~ Kent Hughes
Dubois is 24 years old, perfectly fitting the core of this group he’s assembling. And rest assured that he would sign a long term deal with the team soon after the trade.
☞ CAP MONEY
This is perhaps the most legitimate of the reasons provided. Yes, Cole Caufield will need to be paid. Yes, in a couple of seasons, others like Kaiden Guhle will need a raise. But why are fans making this a worry of theirs? Why not let management make those decisions? Is it truly OUR role, as fans, to manage a salary cap that we know very little about? Allow me to doubt it. If management feels like they want or need Pierre-Luc Dubois, as they sure seem to do, why not let them do what they are paid for? From what I understand, John Sedgwick knows a thing or two about cap management… maybe even a bit more than us.
That said, some people claim that Dubois’ agent saying that he wants to play for the Canadiens is to up the value of his contract. That makes no sense at all. His agent said that this past summer. If it were the case, he would have accepted a long term contract with the Jets, using the Habs. He simply took the qualifying offer instead… to get out sooner.
☞ Why pay when you can get him for free?
This is the most common yet, easiest to dismantle excuse. We have explained in details in a previous article why trading is the best option. If you give up a few assets to get him, it’s not a bad thing. You need to clear some cap space anyway. You have drafted 49 prospects (signed others and traded for more) since the 2018 reset/rebuild, and have 11 more picks and counting for the upcoming NHL Draft. You can only have a total of 50 contracts and some of those young men are starting to join the professional ranks.
By trading for him, you also get one year of RFA including with the UFA years. Further, you are the ONLY team who can negotiate with him. All of this contributes to lowering the cap hit on a long term contract. Common fan may not see the importance of that but you better believe that management is looking down the line, when they’ll have Caufield, Guhle and others to pay.
If you really want him, do you get him now or run the gamble of him entering free agency and speaking to other teams? Asking the question is answering it. You simply don’t take that chance. Not if you want him. So if you’re preaching to wait, at least have the testicular fortitude to admit that you don’t really want the player. You’re suggesting to re-sign Caufield not to lose him to an offer-sheet, right? Why? Because you don’t want another team to sneak in with an offer. Same thing. You want Caufield…
All of the above-mentioned reasons (or excuses) are built on sand, as you can see. Of course, if you take all of those excuses and pile them up together, it seems like a lot of “reasons”, right? But each and everyone has little to no substance and crumbling them is too easy. There is little to no foundation to them, aside from people hiding the fact that they don’t want Dubois, for one reason or another. So why hide behind excuses and not simply come out and say it?
By the way, do you remember the last time the Canadiens had such punch up the middle? It was during the 1995-96 season, when they could count on Pierre Turgeon, Vincent Damphousse (two French Canadians?!?) and a young… Saku Koivu.
It seems like Dubois wants to come to Montreal. The Canadiens’ management want to acquire him. The Jets are willing to talk trade. It sure looks like this is going to happen… this upcoming off-season. They say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire… In this case, we can see flames shooting up and yet, some people claim that it’s not happening. Those are the people they find dead in burning buildings. This, folks, is not the hill you want to die on.