The Mismanagement of Jonathan Drouin

By Bob Trask – Jonathan Drouin broke into the league with a lot of promise after being the third overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft. In his draft year he put up more than two points per game with the Halifax Mooseheads and followed that up with a similar performance the following year. Then the mismanagement started.

The Tampa Years

The Tampa Bay Lightning are often given credit for sound player development but that was simply not the case when it came to Jonathan Drouin.

He was still junior-eligible when he joined the Lightning for his rookie campaign. While he did record 28 assists, Drouin only managed 4 goals in 70 games. In retrospect another year in junior could have done him a world of good.

In the following year (the 2015-16 season) the relationship between Drouin and the Lightning deteriorated. He split his time between Syracuse in the AHL and Tampa, playing only 38 games in total. That is hardly a recipe for player development.

Drouin clawed his way back into the NHL lineup for the 2016-17 season and had his best offensively in the NHL. But the writing seemed to be on the wall and rather than work with the player, it seems that Tampa saw his bounce-back season as an opportunity to move him.

The Canadiens seemed desperate to add a high profile French-Canadian player to the lineup. It is one of those situations that is unique to Montreal and it is understandable why.

The Montreal Years

The acquisition of Drouin by then GM Marc Bergevin added pressure to a player who was still finding his way in the NHL. He was French Canadian, he was a high draft pick and he was going to be the saviour of the franchise. All of this was heaped onto the shoulders of a player who had slightly more than two full years in the NHL. On top of it all he was going to be asked to play center, a more difficult position than wing and one where he had limited experience.

Jonathan Drouin

To make matters worse, Bergevin gave up Mikhail Sergachev, who many believe would become the heir apparent to Andrei Markov. Fans and the media would prove to be unforgiving as he came up short of their expectations. It was a lot to ask of a young man who was just 22 years of age.

The center ice experiment proved to be the failure that many predicted but the failure was not Drouin’s fault – it was the miscalculation by management. They thrust Drouin into a role he was not well prepared for and struggled to find a solution to the problem. Eventually, Drouin was moved back to the wing where he should have been all along.

Injuries and personal issues have not helped. In his five seasons in Montreal, Drouin has played a full season only twice. In the other three he has averaged only 35 games.

The Big Picture

Jonathan Drouin’s development has been handled badly by both Tampa and Montreal. He was probably brought into the league too early, he was bounced around by Tampa and thrust into too big of a role in Montreal. Then he was bounced from center to wing with the Canadiens while suffering through injury plagued seasons. In eight years he has played only 427 games for an average of 53 per years.

All of this leads me to believe that we haven’t seen the real Jonathan Drouin just yet.

The Path Forward

Drouin may finally get the break that he has needed. Head coach Martin St-Louis has been able to get a lot out of his players, more than any recent coach with the Canadiens. This is particularly evident with players who have a flair for offense, players like Cole Caufield and Jeff Petry. But players like Christian Dvorak also thrived under St. Louis.

One of the strengths of the Canadiens’ head coach is that he recognizes the individual strengths of his players and puts them in positions to utilize those strengths. He also encourages players to use their own creativity rather than trying to plug them into a restrictive style of play.

That bodes well for Drouin. He is not going to be the checking fiend that is Artturi Lehkonen but he does have superior puck skills and good vision. Benching players for defensive mistakes can squeeze out the confidence to create offense. If St-Louis can live with some of his defensive lapses that will occur from time to time he could able to reap the rewards of an offensively gifted player.

A Successful Season

If Drouin can remain healthy and finally regain the confidence he had in junior hockey, he could become a valuable contributor to the Canadiens going forward. A season of 20-25 goals and 30-35 assists would not be out of the question.

For this reason Drouin could be the wildcard in the lineup that few are counting on. It would be rewarding for the Canadiens, for their fans and most of all for Jonathan Drouin himself.

Bonne chance, Jonathan.

More reading…

Swan Song Might Have Come For Drouin In Montreal

He’s injured… again. A wrist injury… again. We’re talking surgery and an extended leave… again. The Canadiens paid a high price to get Jonathan Drouin’s services, in what is arguably Marc Bergevin’s only big trade lost in his almost 10-year reign in Montreal. Due mostly to him being unable to stay healthy both physically and mentally, it is getting harder and harder, even for the most positive fans and supporters, to maintain any hopes for any kind success, let alone his future in Montreal.

Before we get started, note that I have been one of Jo’s biggest defenders over his years in Montreal. And this article is in no shape or form, a mean to put him down as a person or even as a player. However, in the name of fairness and integrity, one must be able to give credit when it’s due, and also call a spade a spade when it’s needed too.

Injury Plagued

Drouin was already away from the team due to a COVID-19 close contact and is now facing an extended absence. With approximately five weeks left in the NHL season, it’s not impossible that Drouin has played his last game this year. The diagnosis he received calls for him having his right wrist operated on, but the Canadiens’ winger wants to seek a second opinion. If his season is indeed over, he would end the 2021-22 campaign having tallied six goals and 14 helpers in 34 games.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Drouin would have missed substantial time. Since joining the Canadiens, the Ste-Agathe, QC native has played a combined total of 263 games out of the team’s 356 regular season’s contests. In the past three seasons, he has been limited to 105 of the Habs’ 192 games.

  • 2019-20: 27 of 71
  • 2020-21: 44 of 56
  • 2021-22: 34 of 66 thus far

That’s 55% of his team’s total games over a three-year span.

Nov. 2017Upper body
Nov. 2017Lower body
Feb. 2018Upper body
Feb. 2019IllnessFlu
Nov. 2019Left WristSurgery
Apr. 2021Personal reasonsAssistance Program
Nov. 2021Upper bodyPuck to the head
Jan. 2022Right Wrist
Mar. 2022Right WristExposed to COVID
Wrist – Possible surgery?

Offensive Production

In the 263 games that he’s played for the Canadiens since being traded from Tampa Bay in the summer of 2017, Drouin has racked up 46 goals, 111 assists, 157 points with a differential of minus -59. That’s an average of 0.60 points per game, which averages out to 49 points per season on an 82-games schedule.

Jonathan Drouin

At $5.5 million per season, and considering that when he’s not producing offensively, he brings very little to a team, those numbers are simply not good enough. Of course, injuries factored into Drouin’s offensive production but there’s no denying that he has been underwhelming.

With that being said, it’s not due to a lack of effort, as some fans suggest. He has worked hard at improving all aspects of his game and he wants to be a leader on this team. However, the results simply haven’t been there for him.

Time to go?

Perhaps Drouin would greatly benefit from a fresh start elsewhere. He is just turning 27 today, so it’s not like he doesn’t have some good years ahead of him. But maybe in a market where he doesn’t get recognized in the streets, where there isn’t that omnipresent pressure, the sheer number of reporters following the team, he could focus on himself a bit more.

In a recent article, even before knowing about the most recent news regarding the possibility of Drouin missing the rest of the season, I had him as someone who had to be traded. This news doesn’t do anything to change my mind. The Canadiens do need to shed some cap and it seems like they’re not getting a good bang for their buck with Drouin.

More reading…

Charting the Course into the Future by Bob Trask

Dismantling the Petry to Philly Rumour

Spoiler Alert: Beware of the Habs