It is generally believed that, most of the time, the same ingredients, when mixed together, will result in the same dish. The Winnipeg Jets show that the opposite is possible.
The roster that defeated the Arizona Coyotes last Sunday night was pretty much the same as last year. Goalkeeper Conor Helbwick, the team’s rock in the net, was in charge. All 6 uniformed defenders were part of the organization in 2021-22, as were 7 of the 12 forwards, including 5 members of top 6.
Not looking for drastic changes in the workforce, there haven’t been any changes. The technical staff has certainly been renewed. But according to the latest news, these are not the goal scorers.
Yet it is the best team in the Western Conference that will face the Canadiens, in Montreal, on Tuesday night. Not who missed out on the playoffs by a good eight points last season.
During the Jets’ previous visit to the city, for a pre-season game at the end of September, Pierre-Luc Dubois said that although management had kept his team roughly the same, he expected different results. You could smile and wonder where he was going with that.
Let’s be good players and give the attacker his due. Because he was right.
“Until last year, we knew we had a good team,” he said on Monday, on the sidelines of a news conference linking his name to a foundation that helps disadvantaged youth.
“We realized that when things don’t go well, things can go downhill quickly,” he continued. The race for the chain is getting less and less: when there are 20 games left, you can get a 2% chance of making the chain. This year, we arrived more confident, in good shape, with new coaches. And we wanted to prove to the world that we are a good team, that we didn’t think so. »
From words to deeds
Dubois, first of all, move from words to deeds. With 49 points in his first 44 games, he’s well-positioned to rack up 61 points in a full season. If he doesn’t ring the bell, he has a 90-point bar on hand.
It’s a long season. I still have a lot to accomplish individually. But I think it’s going in the right direction.
Pierre Luc Dubois
Even if he feels that he did not appear “statistically” last season, although he collected 60 points, he believes that he has reached “another level”, even if only “mentally”. He feels better able to tackle one of the most persistent challenges all athletes face, which is consistency. “Knowing what it takes, every night, to perform well,” he says. These are questions I’ve been asking myself since the beginning of my career. »
Obviously, he found some answers. Last season, he scored points in 45 of the 81 games he played – an average of 55.6%. Since the start of this campaign, it has scored nearly three out of every four nights – 72.7%, or 32 out of 44.
“I think I’ve made a move to the next stage,” he concluded.
I’m not the only one
DuBois, in fact, isn’t the only one who has moved so quickly. Kyle Connor can dream of a 100-point season. Cole Perfetti, with 26 points, is second among rookies in the league. Conor Hellebock has reclaimed his place among the best in his career.
But no one on the whole team exploded like Josh Morrissey. With 38 matches remaining, the defender has already beaten his personal best by a huge mark. It is used in all positions, both offensive and defensive. We knew it was good, but at this point? Makes you wonder what he ate during the summer.
“If I knew, I’d eat him too!” DuBois exclaimed with a laugh, before adding that in this season when the Jets no longer have a captain—the “C” has been removed from Blake Wheeler—Morrissey is among the players they’ve taken to setting an example. Something on the ice, Kipker summed up. It’s fun to play with, and fun to watch. »
In fact, all the guys on this team seem to be having a great time. It’s hard to separate this phenomenon from the arrival of head coach Rick Bowness.
The 67-year-old veteran, the oldest coach in the NHL, arrived at training camp very calmly. “It’s going to be okay” probably sums up his message nicely. The pandemic has undermined this mantra. This time it paid off.
“He had no pressure,” Dubois recalls. He showed us videos from last year, good things we did. The players calmed down. We knew we could have a good season. We are ranked first in the West. »
What else ? Probably not much.
(Re)launch of the Pierre-Luc Dubois Foundation
If Pierre-Luc Dubois wore the appearance of a management alumnus at a press conference Monday, it was because he invited members of the Montreal media to launch the foundation that bears his name.
Restart is probably the right word: even if the 24-year-old skater had already taken over from the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation before the COVID-19 pandemic, today only the organization can strengthen its activities and thus raise funds.
The Foundation will provide pieces of hockey equipment for free to underprivileged youth designated by the district’s school system, whether or not they are part of organized leagues. Dubois said he has always wanted to give back to his community. He especially noted that when he was very young, when he lived in Rimouski, he spent all his evenings at the local open-air skating rink, rubbing shoulders with opponents of all calibers and from all walks of life.
“What I liked most was that all the young people had a smile. We were happy to play, even though it was -30 outside. At the same time, the Foundation launched its new website, which contains all the information on donations.
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