Pierre-Luc Dubois felt like an impostor.
Compelled to navigate a number of quarantines, a extremely publicized run-in along with his former coach, a blockbuster commerce, accidents and loneliness, the Winnipeg Jets centre was by no means snug throughout a roller-coaster 2020-21 marketing campaign set towards the COVID-19 pandemic’s backdrop.
And Dubois is aware of full-well that lengthy listing will come off as one large excuse to some. However it’s his fact trying again on a attempting season that drained him each bodily and mentally.
“I didn’t really feel like myself,” he defined. “I do know it’s not the actual me.
“It’s nearly like I used to be sporting a masks.”
Now rested and rejuvenated following a summer season that resembled one thing extra typical, the No. 3 decide on the 2016 NHL draft is satisfied this season will likely be totally different.
Winnipeg Jets ship Patrik Laine to Columbus in swap for Pierre-Luc Dubois
“Lastly the masks’s off,” Dubois added ultimately week’s NHL/NHLPA media tour. “I’m again to my regular self.”
However the highway was a bumpy one.
After a standout efficiency for the Columbus Blue Jackets contained in the NHL’s post-season bubble two summers in the past, Dubois had bother coaching and discovering ice time again dwelling in Montreal due to coronavirus restrictions.
He wasn’t in his normal bodily form upon returning to Ohio final fall to proceed preparations for the shortened schedule earlier than quarantining when a COVID-19 outbreak swept by means of the Blue Jackets’ locker room.
Having already requested a commerce out of Columbus, issues then got here to a head as soon as the season began throughout a January recreation when he was stapled to the bench for greater than two durations by John Tortorella, who felt the participant wasn’t placing within the applicable work fee.
Dubois was subsequently dealt to Winnipeg for Patrick Laine and Jack Rosolvic two days later in a swap that additionally noticed the Jets obtain a 2022 third-round decide.
Winnipeg Jets ship Patrik Laine to Columbus Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois
However as an alternative of instantly hitting the ice and attending to know his new teammates, what was ready for him as soon as he crossed the border was one other two-week quarantine — this one mandated by the Canadian authorities — at a Winnipeg lodge.
And even when these 14 days of solitude have been over, Dubois wasn’t capable of actually get to know the Jets due to COVID-19 restrictions.
There have been no dinners with the fellows, no exhibits or purchasing journeys on the highway, no bonding over beers, no roars from the house crowd.
“It’s humorous,” Dubois stated. “All these questions (on the NHL/NHLPA media occasion) are like, ‘Which teammate does this? Which does that?’
“Truthfully, I don’t know.”
And he’s satisfied that lack of information translated to the ice.
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Pierre-Luc Dubois Interview – Apr. 5
“It’s exhausting once you don’t know the individual,” the 24-year-old continued. “How do you talk with the man? How do you inform them you need the puck right here? It was robust. I attempted to get to know them on the rink as a lot as potential, however everyone has a lifetime of their very own.
“I really feel like I’m (nonetheless) new…. I really feel like the fellows don’t actually know who I’m. I really feel like I don’t actually know the fellows.”
Carrying a wage cap hit of US$5 million this season and eligible to turn into a restricted free agent in July, Dubois would finally end a season additionally impacted by damage with eight targets and 20 factors in 41 video games for the Jets after scoring as soon as in 5 contests with Columbus.
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“You’re clearly disenchanted since you by no means know when you possibly can win a Stanley Cup,” Dubois stated. “Every week later, I felt, ‘OK, I can lastly reset.’”
“It’s exhausting to reset in the midst of a season.”
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However the man who had a career-high 27 targets, 34 assists and 61 factors in 2018-19, and was a dominant pressure within the pandemic bubble for Columbus — particularly towards the Toronto Maple Leafs within the qualifying spherical — believes he’s now there.
“I really feel like the traditional Pierre-Luc Dubois and never the man that’s preoccupied about getting again into form, preoccupied about becoming in,” stated the native of Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que. “A variety of these issues that I by no means skilled in my life, every thing occurred on the similar time.
“To say I’m excited could be an understatement.”
And that bodes properly for the Jets and head coach Paul Maurice, who was impressed when instructed of Dubois’ willingness to simply accept accountability for what occurred final season, with the crew set to open coaching camp Wednesday.
“That takes loads of braveness for a younger man,” he stated. “It’s such a rarity that we discover those who need to take possession of issues that didn’t go properly.”
Maurice can also be inspired by a participant nonetheless removed from the completed product getting into his fifth NHL marketing campaign.
“I’ve acquired a number of religion on this younger man,” stated Maurice, who’s poised to start his twenty fourth season as an NHL head coach, and ninth with Winnipeg.
“In our exit assembly (in June), I knew precisely how he felt about his 12 months. He had a really robust understanding. A lot of folks can speak, however the huge one for me is when our power coach comes again and says, ‘Oh, my God, does he look nice.’
“You’ll be able to’t pretend that.”
Dubois has 74 targets and 179 factors in 280 NHL contests to associate with eight targets and 14 assists in 33 playoff outings, together with that 10-game, 10-point efficiency contained in the 2020 summer season bubble.
After enduring his hardest season thus far — and hopefully ever — Dubois as soon as once more seems like that participant.
“I wasn’t who I used to be my complete life,” he stated of 2021. “Get again within the gymnasium, get again to my associates and get again on the ice … you then notice, ‘I’m again. That is the actual me.’
“The true Pierre-Luc Dubois is again.”
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