Steve Gorten sgorten
Pierre-Luc Dubois had one point in his past nine games before his father, Eric, arrived in Columbus last week for the Blue Jackets’ dads’ trip.
So after Dubois scored for the second consecutive night on Saturday, he wondered whether his old man should stick around a little longer.
“The only time I haven’t scored when my family was (in attendance) was in Chicago” in the second game of the season, he said, laughing. “I’ll try to bring them more often now.”
Eric Dubois needed to return to western Canada and his assistant coaching job with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, but Pierre-Luc should be just fine without him.
“Knowing your game and knowing what you need to do to be successful is so important,” captain Nick Foligno said, “and he’s a kid that’s really figured that out.”
The 19-year-old rookie, one of 13 players in franchise history to make his NHL debut as a teenager, has “mental toughness in him,” coach John Tortorella said. That is why Tortorella didn’t fret when Dubois’ play “dipped a little bit” recently.
Tortorella has likened Dubois’ mental and emotional make-up to that of defenseman Zach Werenski as a rookie last season (Werenski was 17 days younger than Dubois when he made his NHL debut).
Even as Dubois conceded last week, “the frustration … is piling up for me right now,” he also pointed out that he went 11 games without a point after scoring in his first NHL game. So, he said assuredly of his latest slump, “it’s another tough patch right now for me, but I’ve just to keep going with it.”
Dubois‘ fortitude is also why Tortorella trusts him when the rookie tells his coach he “can handle” the physical stress of 27 final regular-season games in a span of 53 days.
“I do worry about it … and I’ve been open with him about that,” Tortorella said. “That’s one reason why he’s not killing penalties. I’ve just got to be careful that we watch him through the dog days here, and toward the end of the year, as far as his energy level.”
Regardless of what happens, Dubois has exceeded the organization’s expectations this season. He solidified himself as the Jackets’ No. 1 center in the opening month, and in doing so eliminated the need to acquire another center when Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg suffered injuries, or now, with the trade deadline looming.
Dubois, who has 12 goals and 13 assists, might be one of the Jackets’ indispensable players this season, along with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, defenseman Seth Jones and left wing Artemi Panarin. At the least, the unflappable French Canadian has skillfully piloted a top line — with Panarin and Josh Anderson as his wings — that was the team’s sole source of offense for many games.
“That line was just so good for so long that you get a little spoiled,” Tortorella said last week.
Then he added of Dubois’ recent struggles, “He’s still a young man going through a long season here that he’s not quite used to.”
Unlike many other rookies Tortorella said he has encountered, though, Dubois has been more than just receptive to feedback from him. Dubois has sought it out.
“It’s an important thing for him, (to have) a relationship with the coach,” Tortorella said. “He has admitted to me that he just wants to be able to come in and talk every once in a while.”
Said Dubois, “I’ve always felt comfortable going to see him and asking advice. … I don’t think you learn by sitting in a shell and thinking about stuff yourself.”
Dubois also recently accepted Dubinsky’s help working on face-offs. The past two games, Dubois has won 18 of 30 draws.
And, of course, Dubois has continued to reach out to his father. He said he tries to call after every Jackets game.
“He probably knows me more than I know myself,” Dubois said. “But he never calls me to talk hockey. It’s always me asking him (about) that.”