Boucher: Lightning Right To Be Patient With Drouin

by Alexis Boucher | Posted on Monday, November 3rd, 2014

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s game against the Edmonton Oilers on October 20th was something the hockey world had been anticipating for a long time. Wunderkind prospect Jonathan Drouin would finally make his NHL debut. He would register his first NHL point on a Valterri Filppula goal the next night in Tampa’s overtime win against the Calgary Flames. People really started talking when he assisted on a Steven Stamkos goal in the first period against the Jets later that week. Drouin would also score his first NHL goal 4:45 into the second period.  Many Lightning fans seemed ready to hand him the Calder Trophy within a matter of days. Two weeks later the Lightning are taking a more measured approach to Drouin’s playing time. As much as some fans may disagree, the team is making the right move.

JDrouinABoucher

Jonathan Drouin

After playing on the top line and averaging more than 18 minutes a game, Drouin’s numbers have been drastically reduced on the current home stand. He averaged a little over ten minutes a game on the third and fourth lines this week. The biggest reasons for his inflated TOI numbers in those first few games were  injuries to players like Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn.

He was slotted into the top of the lineup out of pure necessity. The Lightning haven’t lost their faith in Drouin’s potential nor are they looking to slight him. The cautionary tale of Brett Connolly is a big example of what can happen when young players deal with too much too soon. They don’t want to make a similar mistake with such a promising young player. (Photo / Alexis Boucher)

It’s easy to be impatient when it comes to Drouin’s development. He is clearly insanely talented on the ice. He is so supremely gifted that many envisioned him fitting into the lineup without any hiccups, but it’s important to remember he is still a 19 year old rookie. Before the game against Edmonton he had only played two professional games in an injury assignment with the Syracuse Crunch. There is going to be a grace period when he learns what he can and can’t do at this level as opposed to what he could do in junior hockey.

There’s something to be said for practicing patience when it comes to young players. The Lightning learned a very important lesson when Steven Stamkos was drafted first overall in 2008.  He has become one of the NHL’s most electrifying players so it’s easy to forget that it took some time for him to become acclimatized to the league as well. It took until his eighth game to register his first NHL point and his ninth game to get his first goal. He was criticized for a lack of production in the first half of the season.  Stamkos finished his rookie campaign with 23 goals and 46 points. This includes 19 points in the final 20 games of the season.

Jonathan Drouin is a play maker who has the potential to work magic for the Lightning for a long time to come. We got a glimpse of that with his feed on that Stamkos goal in Winnipeg. The Lightning are in a great position in the standings. Players are healing and returning to the line up. The coaches can ease Drouin into the mix more gradually without risking stunting his development. Fans may be championing a #FreeDrouin movement on social media, but the team is right to take a cautious approach. Drouin is going to be very good for the Lightning for a long time. The most important thing the team can do right now is to continue to carefully foster his growth.

(Feature Box Photo/Susan Ferlita)

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Alexis Boucher
About the Author

Managing Editor and Senior Writer Alexis Boucher is a transplant from the Northeast, who worships in the churches of hockey and baseball. She has followed the Lightning since the late 90's. A graduate of the Florida State University Creative Writing program, she has been blogging for over three years. She has a penchant for loud music, enforcers, and good beer.

Displaying 14 Comments
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  1. Brooke says:

    I completely agree with this, and have been waiting for someone to say it. I don’t think anyone is disputing Drouin’s talent, but he still is brand new to the league and needs to put in his time earning that top line spot. He may get there, he may not; there isn’t much to be gained from rushing things and pushing such a young player. It’s not as if we are hurting for offense and are in desperate need of a contributor at this point.

    For my money, Kucherov is the player to watch. Now that he has earned (there’s that word again) his roster spot, he’s showing a lot of confidence in himself – something he apparently was missing last season. Having found his niche in a brilliant line with Johnson and Palat, he is starting to come into his own. It’s been fabulous to watch him bloom before our eyes into someone who may just be an elite goal scorer in the league.

    Bottom line: be patient, Drouin fans. He will get his shot, and in the meantime, he certainly has nothing to lose by putting in his time with such talented teammates. I believe in Cooper’s ability to bring along these young players and I don’t second-guess his decision at all.

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      I agree that one of the big reasons for carefully monitoring his playing time is they are doing so well. They’re winning and have the luxury to be cautious.

      I also agree on Kuch. He came out strong last year and then struggled. Now he knows what he needs to do to compete at this level and is opening a lot of eyes.

  2. ITMAN says:

    I want Drouin to play more and on the power play for selfish reasons. He’s fun to watch! But as you stated so well. Patience is the recipe for success in this league. Yzerman is following the Red Wing way of success. Methodical.

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      I want him to play more as well, but he’s been in the league for two weeks. They’re winning games. They’re scoring goals. Forcing him into that role isn’t a necessity right now. They may be overly cautious but better than than rushing.

      As always, thanks for commenting and reading!

  3. Jake says:

    I disagree. He is a top 3 or 6 player. Playing on a banger line is doing him nor the team any good. It may in fact be hurting him. Make him a top six forward and a top power play line forward. That’s what he is. Good read despite our disagreement.

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      I do agree that he’s a top six player. I also agree that he is going to see time on the power play, particularly if Killorn’s injury keeps him out any amount of time. But he’s only been in the league for two weeks. I honestly believe he is going to get there sooner rather than later. I can’t be mad at the team for being cautious here though.

      Hey, we’re all about discussion over here even if we disagree. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Dave says:

    Thanks for writing this article Alexis. Obviously, the Lightning Coaches and management team know a lot more than the fans do about developing talent. We don’t know Drouins mindset and how he is in the locker room. The Lightning are finally in position where Coop has to manage PT and egos for a very talented group. Just hate to do things just because that is the way it is always done.
    During the first few games he more than held his own playing 20+ and contributing on the power play. I have not seen that puck control on anybody since the Lightning started playing at the fair ground. Coop and Stevie have my ultimate trust and can’t wait until Stamkos gets a chance to develop chemistry with someone who can dish like Drouin. Seeing his talent and ability to make passes during the first few games gets us all excited about the Lightning future. It’s going to be a fun year.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dave.

      Hopefully we’re going to see Drouin setting up Stamkos goals for a long time to come. And isn’t an overabundance of talent a great problem to have?

      Drouin will come into his own and he will get more playing time. I just can’t fault them for being a bit careful this early with him.

  5. Tony V says:

    Thanks for this article. Drouin is a generational player and as you so very well stated. THERE’S NO REASON TO RUSH HIM!!! The Bolts are a top NHL team right now despite the injuries. Drouin can learn the NHL game at a slow pace and acclimate himself to playing with grown men. The #FreeDrouin morons can just take a hike!

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Tony.

      If he had played a longer injury assignment in Syracuse I might not be speaking out so loudly. But he hasn’t played many pro games. You’re completely right that it’s a different world playing against grown men at such a high competitive level. He’ll get there, there’s no doubt about it.

  6. Big Kahuna says:

    I’ve been reading your stuff and everything on this site since you started. This article is an example of why I will continue to remain loyal. Well written and well thought out. Drouin is a stud. As much as I would like to see him paired with Stamkos, I understand why patience is needed.

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      We very much appreciate you sticking with us! It’s always great seeing your comments as well. Thanks so much for always joining the conversation.

      He’ll get there. He’s too good not to. A couple weeks in the league isn’t the time to be panicking about it , in my opinion.

  7. tictaczap says:

    The thing with Drouin is going to be versatility. And while everyone sees Drouin as a top six forward, with the league going where it’s going, the definition of the top 6 forward depth could very well be redefined, by the Lightning, as top 9. Hear me out for a minute:

    A line with Stamkos on it will see scoring production. I realize you need to pair him with at least one play maker, but that’s all you have to do to make his line produce effective points.

    Palat and Johnson have a chemistry that’s uncanny and unique. The really exciting thing is how Kucherov has been able to mesh so effectively, and naturally, is amazing in and of itself.

    I see Drouin developing into a player like Stamkos, in that any line he is on will have point production. Frankly I would like to see a Boyle, Namestnikov, Drouin pairing for a game before Connolly gets back. When Connolly gets healthy, I think a third line of Drouin, Connolly, and Namestnikov is going to be just as dangerous as the Pajoku line.

    I can’t wait to see Drouin come into his own as Connolly lives up to his legacy. I also think Namestnikov is terribly overlooked due to the insane amount of young depth. He’s been a shining star this year in an already bright sky.

    It is a very distinct possibility that Tampa develops 3 lines of top six forwards by April. The test will be if they are able to stay off the IR. The league has gotten less rough and more agile, but with the agility comes fragility.

    BTW, that’s the name I’m putting on my third jersey: PAJOKU

    • Alexis Boucher Alexis Boucher says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting! You make some great points there.

      Pajoku kind of sounds like an Anime. I would watch a hockey anime about that line, actually. haha

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