Montreal Canadiens: Should Jonathan Drouin be moved this off-season?

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 30: Jonathan Drouin #92 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 30, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 30: Jonathan Drouin #92 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 30, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With the Montreal Canadiens entering the end of a rough season, a few questions remain for the off-season. One being Jonathan Drouin’s future in Montreal.

I think it is safe to say that Jonathan Drouin has been one of, if not the most polarizing player for the Montreal Canadiens since his arrival three years ago.

Things were looking bright in 2016 for a Canadiens team that had just come off a season which saw them drop like a stone out of the eastern conference playoff race following a season ending injury to Carey Price. They had multiple 1st and 2nd round selections in that year’s draft and would later make key signings like Alex Radulov who would propel the team into a playoff spot once more.

That year, they were awarded the 9th overall pick, and used it to select 6’02 Russian defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. A star performer with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, Sergachev had just come off a 57-point season and was projected to be a future top pairing defender for the team.

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Being left-handed also helped matters, alleviating pressure from a Canadiens team without a true left-handed first pairing defenseman. A promising four game audition with the team after an impressive training camp and a solid sophomore year in junior only fuelled fans excitement.

That was until June 15th, 2017.

Coming off of a playoff berth and needing a number 1 centre, the Canadiens traded Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with a conditional 2nd round pick, for forward Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 6th round pick. The trade at the time was seen as puzzling, with Drouin, despite being a key performer for the Lightning that year, having been one year removed from a rocky sophomore season, which saw him outright leave the team after being sent to AHL Syracuse, only to rejoin them for their playoff race. A former third overall pick of the Lightning in 2013, Drouin had shown immense promise with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.

Now, with it being three years since the trade, where do we stand? Well after serving as a depth contributor for the Lightning in his first two seasons, recording 40 points as a rookie in 2017, injuries to star defenders like Ryan McDonagh has seen Sergachev take on a much more prominent role, displaying a good mix of physicality and offense, being on pace to surpass his rookie point totals and then some. He’s been a fine complement to players like Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk and should become a future No. 1 defenseman for the team, with him being just 21 years old.

Drouin (who is a natural winger but played center at times for the Mooseheads) was given a season at center for the Canadiens in a disastrous 2017-18 campaign. He fell short of his previous year’s totals, recording 46 points in 77 games with a -28 rating. While he equaled his career highs last year, he disappeared when the team needed him most, recording just one goal and two assists in the team’s final 18 games. Those games caused the Habs to miss the playoffs by two points. Trade rumors started swirling in this past off-season, but a red hot 15 points in 18 games to begin the season seemed to calm matters. However, Drouin has struggled with injuries this year, playing in just eight games since then, recording no points.

It’s been very much polar opposite stories for Sergachev and Drouin since the trade, and Drouin’s consistency and work ethic issues compared to Sergachev’s much increased role this year has caused trade rumors to swirl once again. With the league salary cap set to increase to between 84 and 88 million, and the Canadiens having many key free agents to sign before this off-season (like Max Domi), should Drouin be dealt, or is there still hope for him to turn things around?

Well, I think its safe to say Drouin has had a very rough time in Montreal. Being a Quebec native with high potential certainly doesn’t help matters, and expectations have been high on Drouin since he got here. Yet, he’s simply been too inconsistent to be trusted night after night, which is far too common on this Habs team. Drouin has shown potential to be the elite playmaker he was in junior, with his passing skills being incredibly beneficial on the powerplay last year, but then there were times where he simply lost control of the puck, killing a high danger zone entry. Drouin’s time in Tampa showed that he has his issues, but they are issues that could be pushed aside if he simply made up for it offensively.

Sergachev has been one thing in Tampa Bay. Consistent. He recorded 30 points or more in each of his three seasons with a positive plus minus rating each time. He’s been a player the team can trust night after night, and he showed an ability to stick up for his teammates in his last encounter with the Canadiens as well. Drouin, by comparison, has been very hot and cold and disappeared when the team needs him most. Does this mean that he doesn’t have his upsides? Of course not, but he needs to show more of the positives more frequently.

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Personally, I think Drouin should be given another chance in Montreal to prove himself, as with a solid supporting cast we could see him return to form, but whether he actually will be given one, remains to be seen.