It was only five years ago (really four and a half) that following top pick Auston Matthews to the Leafs, Patrik Laine went second to Winnipeg and Pierre-Luc Dubois went third to the Blue Jackets. That top three of the 2016 NHL Draft have fulfilled expectations. While Matthews has been a big scorer for Toronto, Laine has finished for the Jets and Dubois had become a good two-way center for Columbus.
Now, it’s late January 2021 and Dubois was traded for Laine on Saturday. However, Winnipeg so valued the big 22-year old center that they included Jack Roslovic and a ’22 third round pick. Basically, the Jets felt they needed Dubois to balance out the roster enough to include former first round pick Roslovic, who the Jackets immediately signed for two years at an average cap hit of $1.9 million. Plus a third round pick. Adding Dubois improves the Jets center depth with Mark Scheifele anchoring the top line and Paul Stastny moving to line three.
For the Blue Jackets, they certainly got a good package for the disgruntled center. Here’s the thing that doesn’t make sense. Why did Dubois not only sign the two-year contract worth an average cap hit of $5 million? But why did he bother to buy an apartment in the Columbus area if he knew he wasn’t staying? Very strange.
Listening to captain Nick Foligno talk about it briefly following a 5-2 home win over the Lightning, you could tell how much of an unnecessary distraction Dubois had become. They even had removed his image from photos. That’s how annoyed his former teammates were with his self-serving attitude. That they responded by taking three of four points from the defending champs says a lot about their character. It’s obvious they moved forward.
In receiving Laine, who is on the hook for $6.75 million before becoming restricted in the off-season, the Jackets get a proven goalscorer who has hit at least 30 or more in three of four seasons. The 140 goals and 250 points rank behind Matthews (160 goals and 290 points) in the ’16 Draft Class. By comparison, Dubois is sixth in total points with 159 (66-93-159) in 239 games. Laine has played the most games (306). Dubois was brought along more slowly. It’s not often two such high draft picks are swapped for each other. That’ll make it interesting to follow how they each perform for their new teams.
The wildcard is Roslovic, who had desired a better role that he had with Winnipeg. He’s never had more than 29 points in a season. That was last year when the 23-year old center established career highs in goals (12), assists (17) and points (29) over 71 games. He tallied two assists in the playoffs. Also a former first round pick in the 2015 Draft, now the local kid from Columbus, Ohio comes home. Ironically, he spent a year playing college hockey at Miami University (Ohio). It has to be a dream scenario for Roslovic. Let’s see how he takes to the hard-nosed John Tortorella. Max Domi has struggled to adjust after coming over from Montreal for Josh Anderson.
If both Laine and Roslovic buy in, the Jackets should become an improved offensive team. They rely a lot on top pair Zack Werenski and Seth Jones. Neither had a point until yesterday with Werenski scoring his first goal and Jones picking up a helper. So far, former second rounder Alex Texier has taken a leap up with three goals and five points in six games. Oliver Bjorkstrand is tied for the team lead in scoring going 2-3-5. Now, they’ll have help from Laine, who will add the dangerous scorer they lack. Foligno (3 goals) and Boone Jenner (2-2-4) are off to good starts while Cam Atkinson only has two assists. Liam Foudy is a ’18 first round pick who also plays center.
Columbus has a nice mix of young players and proven vets. They also boast a good goalie tandem with Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins sharing the net. Ironically, former Tortorella student Michael Del Zotto is on the blue line and has started well with four assists. It’s an interesting team that should compete for the playoffs in the new Central Division which features the Lightning, Stars and Hurricanes. You also have the Predators, Panthers, Red Wings and Blackhawks.
Winnipeg plays in the very challenging all Canadian North. They’re off to a good start having won four of five. Already boasting enough scoring courtesy of stars Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Nik Ehlers, it’s all about improving the defensive play in front of Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck. That’s why they thought it was worth it to acquire the well rounded Dubois, who plays with some edge. Though it sure was lacking in his final game as a Blue Jacket that earned him the last two periods off. I don’t agree with what he did. But he got his wish.
The Jets defense isn’t great due to not having a lockdown defender. Josh Morrissey is their anchor with Neal Pionk the number two. They’ll rely on veteran Derek Forbort and look for young guns Sami Niku and Ville Heinola to evolve into regulars. They could really use another top four defenseman.
When assessing the Jackets and Jets, it’s hard not to like what Columbus added. They already have a good defense and goaltending. The offense has been lacking. If it works out, it could be a steal. We’ll see what happens with both Laine and Dubois.
The news that NBCSN is done at the end of 2021 is sad. Originally the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) when they started before becoming Versus and eventually NBC Sports Network, hockey has been on the network since returning in ’05-06. While the coverage improved thanks to upgrading the studio and hiring better studio hosts and co-hosts, it isn’t a good look for the NHL. Games will move to USA Network and Peacock with ESPN potentially in play for next season.
The tantrum from a visibly upset Carter Hart following a lopsided 6-1 loss to the Bruins is not what you want to see from the Flyers. They’ve been on the wrong end of a couple of touchdowns given up. Is it the pressure, the layoff or the very aggressive system employed by coach Alain Vigneault that’s causing so many defensive breakdowns? Stay tuned.
Without David Pastrnak, no problem for either Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand with both doing their part in the Boston rout of Philly. They’re tremendous players, who are complete in every way. See the shorthanded goal Marchand set up Bergeron for last week at the Devils.
Tyler Toffoli had a field day against his former team the Canucks. In the three game series that Montreal took two games to one, Toffoli recorded seven points (5-2-7) highlighted by a hat trick in his first game versus Vancouver. One the Canucks still pulled out in a wild high scoring shootout. Defense was optional. You could say that for most of the North with teams like Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and even Ottawa not known for their team defense. At least the rebuilding Senators try. It’s wide open.
Congrats to Dylan Cozens on scoring his first NHL goal. A beauty where he went top shelf in the Sabres’ shootout loss to the Capitals. If only legendary Buffalo voice Rick Jeanneret had called it.
Recently, the Maple Leafs fielded a lineup that included John Tavares, Matthews and Joe Thornton. All three centers went first overall in their drafts. They also had Jason Spezza in too. He went second back in ’01 behind Ilya Kovalchuk. I wonder if Kovalchuk will one day make the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s returned to the KHL this season. We’re still waiting on them to do the right thing and induct Alex Mogilny.
Good on Joel Edmundson for stepping in and challenging Tyler Myers to an early fight for his tough hit that concussed teammate Joel Armia. Even if NHL Player Safety got it right by deeming the hit which was called a major not a deliberate blow to the head due to Myers contacting the upper chest, Myers was accountable for his actions. Edmundson did well. The Canadiens win the rubber match. Oddly enough, Myers had a miserable night finishing minus-four with a lost fight. Montreal is a very together team.
Inject Nick Suzuki into my veins.