Setting Expectations On Slafkovsky

By JD Lagrange – Often times, players get the blunt end of the deal by fans and members of the media not for things they did or did not do, but rather because those people set unrealistic expectations for them. Granted, what is realistic or unrealistic is debatable and fluid depending on who we talk to. But most times, it’s not the player’s fault if he doesn’t meet what some believe he should be meeting.

I have personally written about the similarities between Kaiden Guhle and Shea Weber. But I steered short of setting expectations that Guhle will be the next Weber. No, he will be the next Kaiden Guhle. While styles and junior career paths are comparable, it doesn’t mean that one should think it will keep on the same curve. Just like thinking that he will make the team this year for sure is a mistake.

Jonathan Drouin

Many had set expectations on Jonathan Drouin. Some of the blame might have come from then GM Marc Bergevin after acquiring him. But the main reason why Drouin is a scapegoat to many Habs’ fans is because THEY feel like he should be someone he’s not. THEY feel like he should be a point-per-game player (or so). THEY feel like he should be driving the net, digging in the corner, score 25-30 goals and be stellar defensively. You see, it’s not the player that’s disappointing. The player is what he is. It’s those fans’ expectations that are simply unrealistic.


Now comes Juraj Slafkovsky into the picture in Montreal. Because he was selected first overall, because the Canadiens chose him over fan favourite Shane Wright, because he’s big and strong, and because of the fact that the fan base was burnt twice in a row with Alex Galchenyuk and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the young Slovak already comes with immense pressure on his shoulders.

So allow me to at least attempt to bring some perspective to those who cannot help but place unrealistic expectations on players. For one, this year was not a top-heavy draft. So no Sidney Crosby, no Alex Ovechkin, no Connor McDavid was available. These young men are all one level below the superstar level.

Then, if they folded to fan pressure, Wright would be the Habs’ property. You see, management doesn’t care what expectations YOU have on the kid. THEY have a plan and THEY will follow it. They will develop him the way they feel he needs to develop. Fans can’t complain about prior management’s style of development and not give these guys a chance to show if they are better or not. Fans must understand that it will take some time.

“The goal with Slaf is to make the best player we can make, not the best 18-year-old player. We’re going to make the decision that helps us make him a better hockey player. At 18, it’s not trying to do everything to make him have a good season, it’s coaching him and having a plan for him. Like I’m telling you, his play in training camp, his demeanour with the veterans, how he’s able to play in exhibition games. His game is going to speak to us and we’ll make the decision that’s best for the kid, for the Habs.” – Martin St. Louis

But also, look around the NHL. Yes, look at the high picks in the history of the NHL. You will see that not all have a huge impact at 18-19 years old. Some even needed time in the AHL before developing into great NHL players.

Let’s play a game. Guess who the following player is? Those are his first four seasons in the NHL and yes, he started in the NHL immediately after his draft.


You may have guessed it. The guy was selected first overall at the 1998 NHL Draft. Stands at 6’4″ and 215 lbs. That’s right, he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning and now works for the Montreal Canadiens. His name is… Vincent Lecavalier! He didn’t have too shabby of a career, did he?

So again, management has a plan for Slafkovsky. Each fan and each media member has his or her own. Management has what they feel are realistic expectations on their top prospect. Can fans and media members say the same? Some do, no doubt about it. But rest assured that some don’t. And you’ll be hearing voices from those who wanted Shane Wright as the Canadiens’ pick. They’re just hiding in the weeds right now, waiting for the most opportunistic time to pounce. Sad, I know… but an unfortunate reality of this market.

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13 thoughts on “Setting Expectations On Slafkovsky

  1. I agree with not creating an unrealistic expectation around Slaf, but that will always happen as the NHL/Private Media does its thing to create excitement about its product. As far as Drouin goes, I don’t understand why you ignore his behaviour in TB? He set his own bar and he didn’t reach it. Sure, he had an anxiety attack about it, but he has to bear the responsibility for that. Should he be blamed for the fact that Bergevin was stupid enough to give up Sergechev? Absolutely not – that Bergevin believed Drouin’s hype is on him.

    1. I’m not ignoring anything Sam. Regardless of the hype surrounding us in the media, we have full control over the expectations that we put on those players. Not the media, not the team, not even the player himself. Just us. It’s a choice that we make. When I read “no way Slafkovsky doesn’t make the team”, it’s not coming from anyone else but the person making that statement. It’s an expectation placed on the player by that person. Even if the media said it, it’s to us to control what we think. We have full control of that.

      If we put unrealistic expectations on Drouin, it’s on us. Not on what he’s done in Tampa Bay, not on anything else. Those are excuses we’re finding to justify our means, to support disliking a player or being disappointed in their performances. Ultimately, we chose to do that.

      1. Yeah, I agree – with rare exceptions, we are all responsible for the thoughts and therefore expectations we have. But you used the word “scapegoat”, which I take to mean unnecessary blame is being placed on Drouin. I’m saying that’s not true because Drouin himself stated, through his behaviour and statements in TB, he was all that. That’s not really a “scapegoat” imo, but a cocky kid whose self confidence was greater than his talent. And he got exposed. It’s too bad it happened to a young kid, but I think he walked into it. That reality check happens to all kids, I imagine, Drouin’s was just VERY public.

      2. He hasn’t done anything like that since in Montreal and he is a scapegoat to many fans. I’m not making that up, it’s plastered everywhere on social media.

  2. And we’re back to my original point. I get it – he can do no wrong in your eyes. I don’t understand why, but I also don’t have to lol

    1. I’m not sure why you say that. I never said that he did nothing wrong in Tampa. Was it him? Was it poor recommendation by his agent? I don’t know that. But it wasn’t right. But since in Montreal, the issues that you are mentioning (you specifically say in Tampa) have not been issues. Was he perfect on the ice? It depends on the expectations people have of him, which is the point of the article. But off ice, attitude-wise, he’s flawless since in Montreal.

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