Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens.
On the surface, Jonathan Drouin‘s 2018-19 season doesn’t look too bad. The 24-year-old finished with 18 goals and respectable 53 points in 81 contests, but there was plenty of disappointment, too. When the Canadiens needed him most, he was a no-show.
The Habs were in a fight for their playoff lives over the final quarter of the season. Despite picking up 96 points, they still missed the postseason by a hair (Columbus finished two points ahead of them in the chase for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference).
Drouin, who is arguably the most talented player on the roster, turned in a big four-point performance against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 26, but he vanished after that point. For a lot of players, picking up points isn’t the only way to contribute to your team’s success, but Drouin doesn’t offer much else. Don’t get it twisted, being a key offensive cog is important, but when you aren’t scoring, what else are you doing to help?
If you include the four points he picked up in the game against Detroit, Drouin finished the year with seven points in his final 26 games. If you start counting his production after that game, he had three points in his final 18 games (two in one game against the Islanders and one in a meaningless game on the final night of the season).
Yeah, those numbers aren’t pretty.
“From that stretch of not being consistent and not producing, you can gain from that if you look at it the right way,” Drouin said in May, per the Montreal Gazette. “I think I’m able to look at it the right way and in the summer I will look at it the right way. What happened? What changed? I’m not just going to blow that off and go do my summer. I want to look at why. What were the reasons why I wasn’t producing? There was something going on. For me, it’s just to look at that stuff and make sure you’re mature about it and take the good from the bad a little bit. Not just look at how bad it was. For me, if I can take some good stuff and positive stuff — I don’t know really right now what it is and can’t give you a really special word for it — but you got to find a way to gain from that.”
When he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, he was expected to be a first-line offensive talent that the Habs were badly lacking. Yes, Drouin made progress from year 1 in Montreal (46 points while struggling at center) to year 2, but they’ll need him to take a massive leap this upcoming season.
And although Montreal’s brutal power play shouldn’t fall on one player’s shoulders, Drouin has to take part of the blame for that, too. The Habs were consistently bad on the man-advantage throughout the year. Only the Nashville Predators had a worse success rate on the power play. When you miss the postseason by two points, that’s one of the things you look back on with regret.
All in all, it wasn’t a disastrous season for Drouin, but the vanishing act he performed over the final quarter really hurt his team. He can’t afford to do that again.