Dubois taking things one season at a time
Jets forward says Quebec foundation is about helping people where he’s from
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MONTREAL — The Winnipeg Jets had a near-full locker room Tuesday morning at Bell Centre, but Pierre-Luc Dubois garnered most of the attention.
There was good reason, too, as Dubois is a proud French Canadian. It was only natural the product of Ste. Agatha des Monts, Que., would be swarmed by local reporters here, hours before the Jets and Montreal Canadiens collided.
A day earlier Dubois formally introduced The Pierre-Luc Dubois Foundation. It’s an initiative he took over from fellow Francophone Vincent Lecavalier, who is employed by the Canadiens as an advisor, that financially supports underprivileged kids who want to play hockey, with an additional focus on the importance of academics.
While no one can complain about Dubois giving back to his community, some Jets fans were curious — and a bit paranoid — about the timing of the announcement. The fact Dubois is deepening his roots in Montreal also added to the fears his time in Winnipeg might end by the summer of 2024, when he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
“The funny thing is I (took over the foundation) three years ago,” Dubois said, adding COVID-19 had put some events on hold and it was an opportunity to give it some exposure. “I’m born here, I have family here, I have friends here, I grew up here. Those roots are the same as any other French guy in the NHL. For me it wasn’t anything about, ‘How can I get closer?’ It was, ‘How can I help people from where I’m from?’ That’s what it was at the start, and that’s what it is today.”
It was also the first time Dubois has been in Montreal since controversy over his future in Winnipeg erupted last summer, after his agent went on a local radio station and proclaimed the Canadiens would be a place his client would like to play. Reports at the time the Jets and Canadiens were working on a trade involving Dubois only further fanned the flames of a potential breakup.
Shortly after Dubois signed a one-year deal and when speaking to reporters, he said he prefers to operate year to year. The Free Press asked him if there were any ongoing talks on an extension with the Jets.
“If I think of anything else other than finishing first in the West and winning the Stanley Cup it’d be a disservice to my teammates, the coaching staff, and everybody,” Dubois answered. “When the team plays well and the team is really good, everybody on the team plays well and everybody feels good and everybody is happy. That’s where my head is at. I don’t think any further than that.”
Jets head coach Rick Bowness has played a notable role in Dubois’ resurgence this season, including a conversation with the 24-year-old about developing into one of the NHL’s top two-way centremen. Dubois is second on the team in scoring with 49 points (20G, 29A) in 44 games — a pace that will smash his previous season-high of 61 points he set in 2018-19 while with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Bowness was asked by the Free Press if he sees it as part of his job to convince Dubois to sign long-term in Winnipeg.
“I told him that when I got the job. I’m going to do everything I can to help you stay in Winnipeg. I said that to him in July or August when I called him,” Bowness said. “Time will tell on that. That’s totally out of my control right now. He’s going to do what’s best for him and his career. All I can do is tell him I’d love to see him to be a Winnipeg Jet for a long time and I’ll do everything I can to keep you in a Winnipeg Jet uniform.”
Here’s Johnny: Former Jets defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic, now with the Canadiens, has been fitting in nicely with his new club.
The 25-year-old has played in 40 of Montreal’s 44 games this season, registering a goal and five assists while averaging more than 17 minutes of ice time playing on the Canadiens’ third pairing. While Kovacevic is happy in his new hockey home, there are still hard feelings the club that drafted him exposed him to waivers, ultimately giving him away to Montreal.
“It definitely lingers, but at the same time, they’re doing very well and they have a bunch of solid defencemen,” said Kovacevic, following Tuesday’s morning skate. “I let it fuel me sometimes, but I don’t want it to take up too much space in my mind. If I’m focused on Winnipeg, I mean, at this point it’s half a year ago. It’s the last game against them this year so I’ll have a little extra juice, a little extra jam.”
Kovacevic admitted it’s been quite an adjustment playing in such a hockey-mad town, with cameras everywhere and every little thing over-analyzed. He’s settled in nicely, found a stable place to live and has developed a support system around him.
He’s even started to read books and talk to sports psychologists to help with the pressures of being an everyday NHLer in Montreal. In the months he’s been in Montreal, he’s made a solid impression on head coach Martin St. Louis.
“I knew nothing about Kovy until he got here, and pleasantly surprised with what he can bring,” St. Louis said. “He’s a big body (6-4, 208 pounds) who defends pretty well and he actually has a pretty good offensive mind. His execution is going to keep getting better as he spends more time in this league. But his mind and his ideas and his intentions are very good.”
Injury update: After having a number of players return to the lineup recently, the Jets got a little more good news on the injury front.
Forward Mason Appleton and defenceman Logan Stanley are both on the current five-game road trip and each was skating with the club during Tuesday’s morning skate. Neither are facing an imminent return, but it is a good sign.
David Gustafsson remains on injured reserve. Bowness said earlier this week that he expects Gustafsson to be back sometime this week.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.