Drouin Proving Doubters Wrong

It’s June 15, 2017. All is rather quiet in the hockey world as teams are preparing for the upcoming NHL Draft being held at the United Center in Chicago. Suddenly, a bomb blows up in Montreal, when the Montreal Canadiens announce that they have acquired disgruntled left winger Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lighting, sending 18 year-old defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev the other way. The 22-year-old from Ste-Agathe, Quebec was coming home… but as it is a regular occurance in Montreal, not everyone was happy.

The Canadiens immediately turned around and signed Drouin to a five year contract extension worth $33 million. Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin was obviously thrilled about being able to land a young, top-notch local talent.

“When you have the chance to get your hands on a player of Jonathan’s talent at a young age, it’s very important. This opportunity probably hasn’t been available to me in five years. Plus, he’s a kid from here, so for me it was a decision I had to make. Giving up Sergachev was not easy, but acquiring Jonathan was a chance we couldn’t pass up.”

Since the trade, Sergachev has managed 78 points in 159 games with the Lightning, most of which on the power play while playing on the third pairing. Drouin has since played 163 games in the Canadiens’ uniform, racking up 105 points (33 goals) including a career best 53 points last season. But he went dry in the last third of the season with only seven points in his last 26 games, including a four points game against the Detroit Red Wings on February 26th. So when he had a slow start during preseason games a few weeks, many were calling for him to be traded and it didn’t take long to hear trade rumours involving Drouin. This prompted Habs’ head coach Claude Julien to come to the defense of his young veteran on September 27th:

“Give him a break! There are 25 players on this team. For one reason or another, he’s the centre of attention. He’s like other players. He’s trying to find his touch. It’s the same reality in every team. The most important is that our guys be ready for the season opener.”

Making an impact

And that’s exactly what Drouin has done since the very first game of the season. He has been the Canadiens’ most consistent forward in the team’s first five games, accumulating six points and being an offensive threat every game. His work ethics is irreprochable and his confidence has returned. Playing mostly with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia, this line has been very productive, Armia having the best start of his career with a team leading three goals (tied with Max Domi).

After the game against the defending Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues, a game won by the Canadiens 6-3, an emotional Drouin received an amazing support from the fans gathered at the Bell Centre during his post-game interview. Remember when Carey Price received the same support and was close to tears? These guys are human beings and they care, folks!

Say what you will, this trade was and will be good for both teams and Drouin is working hard on his game. We see him often being the first man back in his zone and he’s still young. You can’t teach talent but you can teach positioning, playing without the puck and that’s what Drouin and the coaching staff are doing. It will eventually pays off… if we’re patient enough to wait a bit to reap the benefits. It seems like it’s starting this year. Go Habs Go!

Jonathan Drouin: a Man On a Mission

A wise man once said: “Think before you speak”. How many people have repeated this to you from time to time? And how many people actually apply it in their life? While it is impossible to quantify, the tendency is to pin some words, some ideas, in the back of the memory bank in order to pull them out later. And sometimes, people with any integrity end up regretting their outburst, their first reaction. And if they are being honest, they will even admit that they should have taken the ‘wait and see’ approach before spewing some harsh words. But that my friends, often comes with age and experience.

If you’re a Habs’ fan, there are multitudes of examples of such behaviour and for the sake of accountability, I’ve been pointing to some in recent articles, just to bring to light the negativity too often displayed in this fan base. Whether it is the reactions when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was drafted, or when Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin traded Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi, there is plenty of crow being served. And with Jonathan Drouin heating up, there could now be a legitimate concern about the crow population due to the high consumption. That being said, the black bird is often being consumed by the same culprits: those who simply hate Bergevin’s gut for trading their golden boy. 

Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi

That being said, there were plenty of people who didn’t like the fact that Bergevin traded blue-chip defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev for Drouin – a legitimate concern – but many went overboard by claiming that the Habs had lost that trade. You see, when you trade such young players, only time can dictate a winner and a loser, if any are to be found. No sense in climbing on a high horse and get infuriated. You don’t know how it will pan out. I don’t know either. In fact, while they are hoping for the best, the General Managers involved don’t even know! 

When Drouin was learning a new position at centre last season, his production slightly suffered, although finishing with 13 goals and 46 points which placed him in pretty good company amongst NHL centres. But that production allowed some people to pile on their displeasure in the trade, particularly that in the meantime, Sergachev raked up 40 points that year, though 16 of which were on the powerplay. 

This season is a different story. Drouin, back playing at his natural position on left wing, has found immediate chemistry with newcomer Max Domi and both are having great offensive production in the first third of the season. In 29 games so far, Drouin has 26 points (0.9 pts/GP) including 10 goals. That’s on pace for a 28 goals and 74 points season over 82 games! Domi leads the Canadiens in goals (13 – tied with Brendan Gallagher) and in points (30 in 29 GP) while doing an excellent job at centre. Oh and Sergachev this season? We don’t hear much about him… as he has yet to light the lamp after 30 games.

The Jonathan Drouin / Max Domi show

When looking at Drouin, let’s not forget that he finished the season last year with 13 points in his last 14 games so if you combine that with this year’s production, he now has accumulated 39 points in a stretch of 43 games! But Canadiens’ head coach Claude Julien will be the first to tell you that more than his offensive production, Drouin has shown a steady progression in all aspects of his game. While he likely will never be confused for a Selke Trophy candidate, the 23 year-old Ste-Agathe native is taking pride in trying to improve his all-around game and it has shown greatly, particularly in the past two or three weeks, where he has often been the first guy back to help his defensemen. 

All in all, I stand by what I originally said back in the summer of 2017 when the Canadiens acquired him. This is a good trade for both the Habs and the Lightning. Both received what they bargained for but one thing that I am pretty sure of is that Bergevin will not lose this trade. At worst, he will have tied it but so far, one thing is for sure: Drouin is making a strong case for his General Manager. Go Habs Go!