Jonathan Drouin’s trade request out of Tampa Bay has caught many off guard.
Including his head coach.
“All that stuff is kind of surprising, to be honest,” Jon Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “You never want to be in a situation where somebody wants out. This is probably not the first player that’s ever asked for it.
“But it’s too bad. It’s another situation you wouldn’t see this coming.”
That Cooper’s calling this “surprising” — at least he’s calling it that publicly, anyway — is a bit surprising itself.
Because many assume Drouin’s disenchantment with his role in Tampa Bay is partly due to Cooper’s actions.
It landed on the radar during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Drouin, coming off a rookie campaign in which he scored 32 points in 70 games, was a bit player in the Lightning’s run through the postseason.
He appeared in just six games — none in the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers — and was a virtual non-factor in the Final, appearing in just three of six contests while averaging less than 10 minutes per night.
And Cooper didn’t mince words about why the highly-talented offensive player was out.
“There is more than one net in a rink,” was the now-infamous remark about not playing Drouin. “There’s two. You have to be able to play in front of both.”
Drouin admitted he was frustrated with not drawing in. Cooper, meanwhile, gave the likes of Brenden Morrow, Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown more significant postseason roles — which led to some second-guessing, especially in the Chicago series when the Bolts’ offense dried up, and scored just twice over the final three games.
Given that Drouin’s agent (Allan Walsh) said their camp’s trade request began all the way back in November, it’s fair to deduce hard feelings from the playoffs lingered over to this year.
Yet it’s also fair to suggest that Cooper genuinely wasn’t aware of the player’s disappointment.
At 20, Drouin wasn’t going to march up to his coach and demand he draw into the Stanley Cup Final — he wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of expressing his desire to get in.
“You can’t be in a bad mood,” Drouin said on Cup Final media day. “When guys are scratched you can see in their faces that they’re not happy, but there’s two teams left, so I’m happy and smiling.
“It’s my job to come here and be happy and help my team.”
Update: Drouin met with media in AHL Syracuse on Tuesday morning, in what was described as a “brief and seemingly painful media session.”He punted on answering any queries related to the trade request or his relationship with the Lightning, responding “yes and no,” when asked if this was a difficult situation for him.
“You obviously want to be up there,” he said. “But right now it’s not my decision. I’m happy to be part of the Syracuse Crunch right now and that’s all I can worry about.”