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The Long Read: Streaky Jones letting performance lead way

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

An ideal world, suggests David Jones, would see him find the back of the net once every four games, “but for me it comes in waves.”

So far, he’s averaged one every three.

But they’ve come in a very Jones-esque manner. He’s nabbed two goals in a three-game span early in the season, and has since followed it up with a more recent four in a five-game span.

And even he’d admit, historically, his goals come in bunches.

Eight of Jones’ 14 goals in 2014-15 came in a 14-game stretch, split between two different streaks. From Nov 8, 2014-Dec 8, 2014, Jones bounced the puck off the back of the net four times in seven games, and did again from Feb 2, 2015-Feb 16, 2015.

He had three goals in eight games to start the 2013-14 season. Jones finished with six over the remaining 41 games. Two of his three goals for the Colorado Avalanche, coming out of the shortened 2012-13 season came in a five-game span too.

He’s on a 21-game streak right now. I feel that he’s been our most consistent forward from Day 1. He’s a force.- Bob Hartey on David Jones

Even in that career season in Colorado that had him scoring 27 times, Jones had a stretch of eight goals in 14 games from Feb. 9-March 11, 2011. A month prior, he had netted four in seven skates, and he had nine in 14 from Oct. 26-Nov 30, 2010.

So, it becomes understandable to see when Jones’ seven goals this season, shared with Sean Monahan for the team lead, have come in two absolute bursts.

“His confidence is up right now and when he’s confident…he’s done it before in his career,” linemate Joe Colborne said. “He’s had some big offensive seasons where he’s put up some big-time goals. A lot of it is the role he’s being asked to play too. Back then he was playing with (Paul) Stastny who in my opinion is one of the most underrated passers in the game. Put him with (Matt) Stajan and myself, we’re both more pass-first guys, too. When you give him the opportunity to score, he’s going to put it the net.”

In between? A 10-game goalless drought.

“You think when you go 10 games without a goal, I was still having good games,” Jones said. “Just the puck wasn’t going in for me. I just try to get to the net and get in the blue paint. That’s where most of my goals come from.”

There’s no secret to Jones’ game. There’s no magic formula.

Outside of putting on his left skate before his right, there’s no superstition either.

It’s just the same Jones, whether he’s riding an explosion, or trying to ignite one.

“Just shoot the puck,” he says. “Shoot the puck and keep going to the net. Even when guys aren’t scoring that’s what you’ve got to do. Just go to those areas where you’ve got to get a little dirty. Eighty percent of goals in the NHL are scored within five feet of the net, so just try to go to those areas.”

The effort, that attitude, hasn’t gone unrewarded to this point.

With seven goals in 21 games to start the 2015-16 season, the 31-year-old is on pace for a 27-goal season, which would match his career-high set as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2010-11.

It’s been in familiar fashion, too. A streaky fashion.

But this one has been a long burst, suggests one.

“He’s on a 21-game streak right now,” Bob Hartley, his coach, fired out. “I feel that he’s been our most consistent forward from Day 1. He’s a force. He’s a big-sized player that uses his size to his advantage. He’s moving well. He’s skating well. He’s physical. Drives the net. Shoots the puck. It’s a pretty easy recipe for success.”

Confidence in Jones is understandable.

Eight months from unrestricted free agency, and with a tough summer for those looking for work in the rearview, Jones is enjoying his best season to date as a member of the Flames.

But there’s no correlation, between the two.

“Not for me anyway,” said Jones. “I don’t even look at that. Every time I go on the ice, I give the same effort whether we’re out of the playoffs, in the playoffs, or in a contract year. You’ve got to have respect for the game, it’s the best league in the world. I had a coach once say that if you don’t give it your all or you’re going to have regrets afterwards. I just try to go as hard as I can every game.”

Still, Jones, a product of Dartmouth College, is a student of the game.

On and off the ice.

And with unrestricted free agency looming, he put time in during the summer hoping to better understanding what may come on July 1st, should he get there.

“Absolutely. You’re always looking at different contracts and seeing where you fit in,” said Jones, whose four-year contract, inked as a member of the Avalanche in 2012, will expire at the end of the year. “When it comes to signing or re-signing, it’s always about comparables. You’re always looking.

“During the year, most of the signings are in the off-season, so I just worry about playing right now. That stuff will take care of itself.”

He’s not wrong.

And, from Colborne’s account, Jones is letting it sort itself out.

“He’s not a guy that really talks about that,” said Colborne, stationed beside Jones, stall mates, in the dressing room. “He’s made some good money already. I think he’s just focused on winning. He’s the veteran guy, one of the veteran guys on this team. He’s just been such a good leader. When his role has been diminished at different times over the past few years, you never hear a peep out of him, never a bad word. He’s so positive.

“You love seeing guys like that that are the positive influence and always looking to help out the young guys, you’re always happy when they’re having success.”

Jones is.

And it’ll help him avoid the fate other veterans weren’t as fortunate to survive last offseason.

Tomas Fleischmann was invited to camp with the Montreal Canadiens and earned a one-year contract. So too did Scottie Upshall, who nabbed a one-year deal out of camp with the St. Louis Blues. Brad Boyes, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was able to parlay an audition into another contract.

Others, like Ray Emery in Tampa Bay, Devin Setoguchi in Toronto, and Curtis Glencross, both in Toronto and Colorado, weren’t as fortunate with their free agent invites. In Glencross’ case, the lack of a contract offer had him, at age 32, opt for retirement over seeking a destination outside the NHL.

Jones is acutely aware.

“There’s a lot of guys that are NHL players that didn’t get jobs at the end of the season,” he said. “That shows just how good the young players are coming up. You have to keep working and keep developing your game. The young guys coming in are unbelievable. You have these 18 year olds that are jumping in and are the best players in the league, some of them.”

C’est la vie.

“I just think the speed, the talent that’s coming in, it feels like my first few years,” Jones said. “You’d have a first round who’d get called up for a few games and get buried on the fourth line.

“Now they’re bringing these kids up and to play top minutes and that’s great. It’s making the game better. You have your superstars making a ton of money, then you have your young guys, and then you have the middle of the road guys that are getting pushed out. It’s great for the game and great to have good young players.

“It’s not something I worry about. I bring a lot of value, so I’m not too concerned, but with the Canadian dollar and with the cap, it’s always something to look at with guys getting pushed out.”

Jones doesn’t expect to be one of them.

He’s not concerning himself with it.

For now, he’s just enjoying the best of his three seasons with the Flames.

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