It Wasn’t Supposed To Be That Way

By JD Lagrange – Call it a fairy tale gone wrong, call it a bad dream, this whole experience of Jonathan Drouin in a Montreal Canadiens’ uniform has never turned out the way it should have been. It was supposed to be magical, a match made in heaven. The home boy loaded with skills, playing for his childhood team at a young age. Five years later, force is to admit that somewhere in the process, what was supposed to be good wine, turned to vinegar.

Jonathan Drouin and Marc Bergevin

On June 15, 2017, the Montreal Canadiens acquired then 22 year-old Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange from defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev. At the time of the trade, most people were excited by the trade, although some were questioning giving up Sergachev, if you recall.

But at the time, that was the asking price to get your hands on a guy who was selected third overall only four years prior, and who was coming off a 21 goals and 53 points season. Drouin’s 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) would have ranked third on the Canadiens that season, one point behind Alexander Radulov.

It was immediately announced that the team had signed a six-year contract extension with the Ste-Agathe, Quebec native worth $33 million. The team used him all summer in its promotional off-season events, as they did this past summer with Nick Suzuki. Bergevin genuinely felt, at the time, that he had acquired a player who would be a corner stone for the franchise for years to come.

“There’s obviously a lot of pressure playing in Montreal, everybody knows that,” Drouin said at the time. “But for me as a player I think I’d rather have that pressure on myself [here] than some other places. I’m French-Canadian and I’m going to thrive on that pressure. I like that stuff.”

Extended time off

In his first two seasons, Drouin only missed a total of six games. But since the 2019-20 season, he has been out of the line-up, for one reason or another, for a total of 117 of the team’s 225 regular seasons’ games… and counting! That represents 48% of the games the Habs have played, not counting the magical playoffs’ run of 2021 in which he did not participate. And the Canadiens announced last night that he would miss another four to six weeks with an upper-body injury.

Fans have been very hard on him, often too hard… as they can be at times. Injuries – including two wrists surgeries – have taken their toll on his body and his mental health has suffered in the process. It is very, very unfortunate as Jo comes across as a very nice guy, even when you don’t know him personally. There is no doubt in my mind that his heart is in the right place and that he genuinely wanted to succeed in Montreal.

But we must now all admit that this trade was perhaps the only very bad trade made by Marc Bergevin. To the former GM’s defense, no one can predict injuries and he took a chance on Drouin just as Kent Hughes has taken a chance on Kirby Dach. Time will tell if that one turns out better than the Drouin trade, but so far, so good.

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Decision Time On Slafkovsky… Or Is It?

By JD Lagrange – Well, there it is. Juraj Slafkovsky has played his ninth game of the season last night against the Vegas Golden Knights. And he took the opportunity to score his third goal of the season. Along with Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach, he was one of the bright spots for Canadiens in that game.

Yet, he finished the night with 11:34 of ice time, with no power play time once again. He had three shots on goal, one blocked shot and one takeaway in the game. But more than that, the young Slovak was very effective on the forecheck and generated scoring chances for his line.

Slafkovsky’s three goals are tied for third best on the Canadiens this season with Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak (who scored them all in the same game including an empty net goal). Only Anderson has more hits than him amongst forwards.

You have a bunch of expansive dead wood getting ice time, time on the ice that is not deserved and that would be more beneficial to the development of the first overall pick at the last NHL Draft. Evgenii Dadonov is “injured” but was extremely ineffective. Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin are just as ineffective, although we can see a bit of effort from the later. Last night, Hoffman was particularly horrific, with bad decisions and poor execution and that, coming back from being a healthy scratch. Can you believe that he even played a minute short-handed against Vegas?!?

Contract year

Mike Hoffman

But let’s return to Slafkovsky. It seems like there are some Canadiens’ fans who feel like the team’s brass should concern themselves with “losing a year” eligibility by keeping him in the NHL. You see, Kent Hughes has the option of having a year “slide” if he sends the young prospect to the American Hockey League (AHL). They feel like that is what’s best for the young man’s development. It is debatable, but certainly defendable.

However, the Canadiens are NOT concerned about losing a year. Whether he’s sent down to Laval prior to the next game or not, Slafkovsky will play too many games in the NHL this season. Even if they send him to the AHL, he will most certainly be called up from time to time. So folks, let’s allow management to deal with the situation. They have a plan and they will follow it.

In my personal opinion, the issue is his ice time and Hughes’ focus must be to unload some dead wood from the wings’ position. We have learned that the Canadiens have had discussions with the Capitals, amongst other teams. But nothing is apparently imminent. Even more so now that the Caps have picked up Nicolas Aubé-Kubel off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Something has to give and the sooner, the better both for the development of Slafkovsky, but also for team spirit as the atmosphere cannot be at its best in the dressing room with those three players being unhappy. More than what’s happening on the ice, this cannot be an easy situation for young captain Suzuki.

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