With Monday afternoon delivering the news of his suspension being lifted by the organization, it now appears that the interminable drama surrounding the status of second-year Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin should soon come to a temporary halt.
On Tuesday morning, the 20-year-old winger is scheduled to report back to Syracuse of the American Hockey League. There, he will have to re-assimilate himself and once again earn the trust and respect of teammates in a locker room he willingly walked out on just two months ago. Given the traditionally close-knit and loyal dynamic that exists among hockey players, Drouin now finds himself in what is sure to be an unnecessarily awkward situation. While certainly not an impossible dilemma to overcome, Drouin must come back humble, competitive and willing to work tirelessly in order to reestablish goodwill among his teammates.
While his initial return to the organization certainly sounds foreboding, the story of Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t have to conclude on such an inharmonious note. Despite how difficult it may be to see today, the heavily publicized dispute of the past several months could one day prove nothing more than a dramatic but inconsequential blip on the radar of an otherwise successful career in Tampa Bay. In order for that to happen though, Drouin must come to the understanding that consistency and hard-work is the only solution to his decidedly frustrating situation.
Asked if relationship between Drouin and #tblightning is salvageable long-term, Yzerman says, “I’m not going to rule anything out.”
— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) March 7, 2016
For proof of the plentiful success this revelation can provide, Drouin needn’t look any further than 22-year-old Lightning’ team leader in points, Nikita Kucherov. While not an exact comparison, Kucherov endured a similarly turbulent rookie season in 2013. Benched on multiple occasions for a tendency to focus solely on offense at the expense of defensive zone efficiency, the dynamic young Russian was forced to adapt and readjust his game to meet his coach’s expectations. According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet:
“A year ago Nikita Kucherov was a healthy scratch for playoff games at the Bell Centre. He was a slightly stubborn soul and an occasionally unwilling pupil. By the time training camp opened in September, some inside the organization wondered if he would even crack the NHL roster.” (May 8, 2015)
As the past two seasons have indicated, Kucherov responded to this temporary setback in phenomenal fashion, emerging as one of Tampa Bay’s three most indispensable players.
There is no question about the talent Jonathan Drouin possesses. After amassing 242 career points in just 128 games over the course of a three-year junior hockey career, the 5-foot-11 Quebec native earned his position as the third overall draft choice of the Lightning. Now almost three years removed from draft day, he must earn his keep once again by proving an ability to prevail in the face of adversity. If successful, Drouin will find a tremendously gratifying prize at the end of the tunnel: redemption.