“Whether you’re trying to learn in hockey or trying to learn in life, I’ve always tried to be observant and tried to learn more, tried to evolve, whether it’s as a hockey player or as a person. With each year, I try to do that.” Do you know who once said that? A hockey player. But not just any hockey player. Only the best hockey player in the last decade. You guessed it, Sidney Crosby came up with this gem of a quote.
If there’s one player on the Montreal Canadiens who has been living by this quote this past season, it’s Jonathan Drouin. Catalogued as the most skilled French Canadian player to wear the Habs’ uniform since Vincent Damphousse last did back in 1999, Drouin’s acquisition was not without controversy amongst some of the fanbase, particularly those who can’t wrap their heads around the team’s importance to get local talent. The Canadiens gave away a bluechip prospect in defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in order to acquire him and that didn’t sit well with some.
Yet, after the trade, Lightning headcoach Jon Cooper had this to say:
To be honest, I thought Drouin was playing at the peak of his development by the end of last year. I remember when the trade officially happened, thinking, ‘Oh, boy, somebody is getting a player that’s starting to come into his own.’
The Canadiens, as we are well aware, went on to have a disastrous season, finishing 28th overall with 71 points. And to add insult to injury, team GM Marc Bergevin was, once again, unable to acquire a much needed top-6 centreman and as if the pressure of coming to Montreal wasn’t enough, the team decided to turn the young left-winger into one. The results were highly criticized by those who were not in favour of the trade but all were forced to admit that he did finish strong, getting 20 of his 46 points in his last 29 games, including a stretch of 13 points in his last 14 games of the season.
But when it’s all said and done, perhaps the best way to better analyse Drouin’s season might just be to compare him to some of his peers at that position. When looking at well established centremen with a similar offensive production, we might be able to put things into perspective.
Looking at this, let’s ask ourselves: how many from that list were learning to play centre at the NHL level, on a new team to top it all off? Unfortunately, his GM’s inability to find a top-end centre again this summer will force Drouin to keep learning at that position. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m quite optimistic about his future. This is particularly true when considering that he’s only 23 years old. Go Habs Go!!!