Dumont making a difference for Nashville

Originally published in Eishockey News in 2008

By Lucas Aykroyd

J-P Dumont is one of the NHL’s most anonymous stars. He recorded a career-best, team-leading 72 points with the Nashville Predators last season, but few hockey fans could pick him out on the street. That’s not really surprising.

The talented right wing was chosen third overall by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, but never played a game for that club, since he was traded to Chicago  in 1998 due to a contract dispute. In 2000, Dumont’s next destination was Buffalo, where he spent five seasons but never became a true front-line player offensively. Only in Nashville has the 30-year-old Montreal native emerged as one of the team’s leading scorers. Playing in low-profile markets and being a late bloomer isn’t the best way to rack up endorsements like Sidney Crosby.

Or even Roberto Luongo, for that matter. Dumont likes to keep track of his old teammates from his days with the Val d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Luongo, who played three seasons there, spoiled Nashville’s November 4 visit to Vancouver by posting a 4-0 win.

“When he came to Val d’Or at age 16, I knew right away Roberto would be a starting goalie in the NHL and one of the best,” Dumont recalled afterwards. “He loves the game and he hates to lose. He’s a really good player and a really good guy.”

The shutout versus Vancouver ended a seven-game point streak for Dumont, who reached the 400-point mark on October 18 with a goal versus Columbus.

Logging about 19 minutes a night, the savvy playmaker is continuing to show great chemistry with his regular partner on the top line, captain Jason Arnott. Last season, they played with Alexander Radulov, but the talented Russian controversially defected to the KHL’s Salavat Yulayev Ufa in the off-season. That’s placed extra pressure on Dumont and Arnott to deliver offensively.

“It’s a good pressure,” Dumont said. “We really enjoy that. It’s the role we’ve been given here. Overall, we’re doing a good job, and we have to keep producing.”

Retaining stars like Dumont is important for Nashville, which is struggling to keep attendance up at home games despite making the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. In the summer of 2007, ownership changes nearly led to moving the franchise to Hamilton or Kansas City, and speculation is still rampant that the financially troubled Predators will eventually relocate to a stronger hockey market. They haven’t kept the likes of Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, or Tomas Vokoun, but they did sign Dumont to a four-year, $16-million extension on February 1, 2008.

“The deal came together right at the trade deadline, while we were battling for the playoffs,” Dumont said. “When they gave me an extension, it showed me they wanted to stick around for a while. I really enjoy Nashville. They’ve given me a special opportunity.”

This French-Canadian veteran certainly doesn’t have the recognizable profile of Barack Obama. But much like the newly elected US president, Dumont will be counted on to deliver big things for his constituents during difficult economic times

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