The fact that Jonathan Drouin was going to leave the Canadiens was no big secret and the Quebec forward is the first to recognize that after years of swell, he aspired to calmer waters elsewhere than in the bubbling Montreal. It does not, however, maintain the slightest bitterness.
Since joining the Colorado Avalanche when the free agent market opened up, Drouin has made no secret of the fact that he’s been happily ever after. Not because he wants the Canadian or his supporters, on the contrary.
Except that it is enough to see him on the screen for a few minutes during a videoconference organized by his new team to see how light the heart seems.
“A few days before [l’ouverture du marché]we made the decision not to return with the Canadiens.
“Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton were super nice to me, but I needed a fresh start. Montreal, it has been difficult in recent years. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. I needed a fresh start somewhere else,” said the 28-year-old forward.
Not all negative
Ups and downs, to put it mildly. The highs have been very high, but the lows have been abysmal at times, to the point that his anxiety issues during the 2020-21 season made headlines and earned him a nice boost of sympathy.
Despite the roller coaster of emotions during six seasons in Montreal, the forward who was limited to 186 points in 321 games with the Canadiens ensures that he leaves Montreal without the slightest resentment.
“I had some great moments in Montreal, there are not only negatives. I met some great people and I grew up like no one, “he noted, stressing that he will not speak ill of the Canadian to a Quebecer who wonders about the idea of playing. at the Bell Center.
“I will never tell a Quebecer not to go to Montreal. Even after six years, I still had butterflies when I took to the ice at the Bell Centre. These are things that will never change. The fan passion will always be there. Yes, there is pressure, but if you can handle that, it’s a great place to play. Especially now, with the staff in place. It’s going to be a team that will be very good in the future,” he said.
A good relationship
The element that was more difficult in the equation according to Drouin, it is the fact of leaving a team led by Martin St-Louis. By the tape, we understand that this was not always the case with its predecessors.
“Things were going really well with Martin. We were on the same wavelength and we saw hockey the same way. It’s difficult to leave like that when there is a coach with whom you feel comfortable and at least you understand where we are going with the team.
As for whether he would like to go back in time to do things differently so that his time in Montreal would be a greater success, Drouin would not change anything.
He admits, however, that the pressure from Montreal took him by surprise even if he felt prepared to face it when he arrived.
“I have no regrets. There are some things I might have changed…but not really. When I arrived in Montreal, I thought I knew what to expect, but everyone will tell you: when you’re a Quebecer in Montreal, you can’t really know what to expect. I’ve already put Montreal behind me and I’m thinking about the future. I wouldn’t change much in what happened,” he said.
When Nathan MacKinnon becomes a recruiter
A little over 10 years ago, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin terrorized opposing teams in the QMJHL with the Mooseheads.
For Jonathan Drouin, going to join Nathan MacKinnon in Denver was a matter of the simplest logic. Especially since his former teammate and friend himself took care to recruit him.
“We exchanged a lot of text messages in the last few weeks. At this point in my career, I wanted this opportunity. I’m super excited to join such an organization,” said Drouin, who accepted a one-year contract for $825,000.
Both forwards were teammates for two seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL. In 2012-13, they were rain or shine.
MacKinnon had 75 points including 32 goals in just 44 regular season games. Drouin scored 41 goals and 105 points during the same season. In the playoffs, the two had been on fire with a combined 74 points, forming a lethal duo.
During his July 1 press briefing after hiring Drouin, Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland highlighted MacKinnon’s persuasive work, referring to him as an “honorary member of the scouting team.”
Always in touch
The two sidekicks always remained close and continued to talk over the years, until MacKinnon courted Drouin in the final hours to bring him to the Avalanche.
“It wasn’t something that was talked about in the past, but in the last few days I would say yes. Before, I played in Montreal and he in Colorado. We talked about regular things that people talk about in life. In the last few days, when I became a free agent, we decided that we would like to play together and that it would be a good thing for me to go and play in Colorado,” said Drouin, who became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
“It was something new, something I had never experienced before. Colorado was on my radar and I got lucky. It is a very good opportunity. There have been several calls and emails in the last few days but I’m glad it’s done and that I find myself with a very good team.
Reunion with Lehkonen
In addition to MacKinnon, Drouin will also reconnect with Artturi Lehkonen, whom he rubbed shoulders with for six seasons in Montreal.
“Lehkonen is such a versatile player. He wins his battles for the puck and does a lot of important things to help the team win. I also played against (Samuel) Girard in the junior. I know it’s a good group of guys,” said the man who calls himself “super healthy” after a few seasons where injuries have not spared him.