They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
- Jul 28, 2004
Let’s begin with two very important points: PL Dubois has struggled… and he’s not the sole — nor even the primary reason — for the Kings struggles over the past several weeks.
Both points can exist at the same time and be true. Which they are.
Now, with that said, nine goals or 19 points, neither are what the Kings likely had in mind when they pulled off a massive trade with the Winnipeg Jets last summer to acquire the 25-year-old Canadian. Back then, all parties were excited about the 6-foot-4 forward coming to LA right as he was entering what should be his prime years of on-ice production. Dubois himself even talked things up extensively during his visit to Kings Of The Podcast in the days following switching teams.
While his stats have come into question several times throughout the 2023-24 season, things seemed to reach a crescendo during coach Todd McLellan’s postgame press conference at Crypto.com Arena on Monday night.
“Well, we took him from center, put him on wing, he ended up back in the middle,” said LA’s bench boss was about Dubois. “So for, as much as his play is his play, we may be confusing him sending all over the place. But, at the end of the day, if PL gets four minutes or PL gets 24 minutes, he has to be a difference maker — and with or without the puck. We’ve gone through this long enough. It’s time.”
No mincing words there; direct and to the point. In an effort to help the Kings improve upon their 2-5-4 record this month, McLellan needs some help from Dubois, and he needs it now.
Some 12 hours later on Tuesday morning, after the Kings wrapped up their roughly 45-minute practice at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, we caught him with Dubois for some reaction — and hopefully some insight into what’s really going on.
“Would I want it to go better? Yeah, that’s a pretty easy question,” he said, as we opened up our one-on-one chat. “But, you know, I learned a lot my first year in Winnipeg. You get to a new team; you have to develop a new rhythm, a new routine. Going into practice, going into games. You’re not always in the same chair that you had on your previous team, where you can just come to the rink and know what to expect, and you’re just in the flow of things. You don’t have to think it, just happens naturally.
“When you show up to a new team, sometimes you’re in a different role, a different position, different chair, where you’re in a position you’ve never been in before and you have to adapt. That happened my first year in Winnipeg; playing different positions, playing different lines, playing different minutes, different rules. It got me out of my comfort zone and it’s kind of the same thing right now. It’s just trying to get into that rhythm again. The players here have been really helpful, trying to help me out and communicate, and all that. So, I’m sure once that happens, I’ll be fine.”
For the purpose of comparison, go back and look at his stats that first year with the Jets.
Dubois produced 20 points (8G, 12A) in 41 games. Those are almost identical to the 19 points in 44 games he’s generated for the Kings.
For what it’s worth, he essentially followed that up in Winnipeg with back-to-back seasons of 27 goals and 60 points — matching his career high season in Columbus from 2018-19.
Leaning into the players surrounding him in the dressing room, is that helping give Dubois cover during this difficult start in LA?
“Yeah,” he stated rather emphatically. “The guys in here have, I’ve always felt their support. As a player, that’s what you want. You want to feel the support from your teammates and the communication from them has been great.”
Then, what about the coaching staff? What about McLellan saying he needs more and it’s been long enough?
Dubois — who can be charming to talk with, as he’s very articulate and insightful most of the time — took a long pause before answering. He pondered what was being asked of him as we sat there.
“Nobody puts more pressure on myself than me,” he began. “Todd and I are still developing our relationship.”
Dubois again paused. He thought for a few seconds and repeated that last statement. Not as if he was trying to be curt, he simply appeared to not have more to add. Almost as if he needed more time to reflect later on his own.
So, we took a brief detour and came at things from a different direction.
Are things at the stage in the relationship where you’re listening and wanting to get feedback from McLellan or at a stage where you feel comfortable enough to give feedback? Which one is going to help take that relationship to the next level?
“Listen, I want to help the team win any way I can,” proclaimed Dubois. “Sometimes, the only way to do that is to have conversations, and talk. I want to be coached. I want to be the best player I can be for this team. If there’s something that I don’t do right, I want to know. So, yeah, I think we’re still at the first stage of getting to know each other.”
Unlike previous conversations with Dubois, where he free flowing spoke, he again paused and was almost talking his thoughts through out loud.
After he briefly sort of paused and had a momentary reflection, Dubois finished his train of thought – “Yeah, sometimes conversations need to be had in order to know what is wanted from you. So, yeah, we’re still learning how to get to know each other.”
Less than an hour later, on the other side of TSPC, in a different room, McLellan was made available for a post-practice session with the gathered media.
After briefly paraphrasing the about conversation with Dubois, we asked McLellan for his thoughts on the status of their relationship and, specifically, if he was able to communicate with and explain things to his player in a way that he understood.
“Well, if he doesn’t understand, then I’m doing a real poor job because we’ve had our share of meetings, we’ve had video, we’ve had small group discussions, we’ve had assistant coaches that deal with different situations and we’re over halfway through the season,” explained McLellan. “So, if there is miscommunication, then that’s probably on the sender and that would be me. But I don’t feel that way.”
Before continuing we’ll briefly depart from the normal style of an article. As the writer, you usually don’t want to insert yourself into the story. However, in the case, it’s fairly relevant and provides some key context.
Not wanting to have things become misconstrued — knowing the potential for sensitivity around this entire subject — I clarified for McLellan that I didn’t think it was about ‘miscommunication,’ but more that Dubois wants to be coached. “He craves that,” I stated, before asking the coach if he felt there is an opportunity to maybe pour into Dubois further, to get that ‘more’ out of him that was originally mentioned on Monday night.
To his credit, McLellan seemed to appreciate the clarification and then added the following.
“No,” he started with. “I think we’re pouring in. We’re there, we’re pouring in. There’s only so many techniques or moves that anybody can make. At the end of the day, we have to play the cards we have. We’ve got to come out with a winning hand, and everybody has to be part of that.”
For now, it seems like it’s all still a work in progress.
The relationships, the trust, the performance, the conversations, the understanding — all of it.
Little appeared to be settled after hearing each person’s perspective.
Where do things go from here?
For now, we’ll wait and see what happens coming out of the All-Star break.
Maybe, just maybe, the 10-day break will allow everybody to exhale just a smidge, and the pieces will start to come together rather naturally.