Cooper says no 'grudge' with Drouin, would welcome him back
Wing Jonathan Drouin is scheduled to play for AHL Syracuse tonight in his first game since ending his six-week holdout.
Lot of eyes in Tampa Bay will likely be on Drouin, 20, with GM Steve Yzerman leaving the door open for the No. 3 pick from 2013 to get a callup to the Lightning at some point this season or in playoffs.
And that wouldn't be an issue for coach Jon Cooper, even with Drouin's decision to request a trade in November and make it public in January.
"It's not a situation for any of us where it's a personal grudge thing or anything like that," Cooper told Times writers Tom Jones and Rick Stroud on 620-AM this morning. "He felt this was something he had to do, and I think it took a lot of guts to do what he did, whether it was right or wrong. But to sit here and say, 'Oh my gosh, that kid will never come back, you can't say that. I don't think you can sit here and say, 'Well this kid is 20 years old, made this decision and now he's done with the organization.
"If he can help us, what's the saying, why would you bite your nose off to spite your face? Why would we do that? We're trying to win a Stanley Cup and the players in this organization that can help us win the Stanley Cup right nown are what we have up top here. But if there's somebody else, including Jonathan, that can help us do that we'd be crazy not to bring him back there."
Cooper said Drouin's decision this week to return to Syracuse, getting his suspension lifted, was the best thing for the player and the organization. But, like Drouin even said, he'll have to prove himself on the ice in order to get a chance in the NHL this season. The Lightning has a full roster of forwards now, and it'd likely take an injury for Drouin to come up.
"In saying that, everyone down there has to earn their way back," Cooper said. "It's a development league down there and Jonathan is most certainly developing. Other thing is he hasn't played hockey in six weeks. That's not an easy thing to come into, to get right back into it especially if teams are going in playoff hunt. We wish him well, hope he does well and that's soemthing we're not really looking at right now. But who knows? In 4-5 weeks when he's back in game shape and things are going, we'll see how he's doing."
More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will be in net for the Lightning. Cooper said D Braydon Coburn (lower body) and D Anton Stralman (illness) will be game-time decisions, though they skated this morning at the optional skate and would appear close to returning. Coburn said he's felt better every day, admitting it was "tough to swallow" that he missed Monday's potential homecoming to Philadelphia. D Matt Carle and RW Jonathan Marchessault were among the last to come off the ice this morning, a good sign they might be scratched. D Slater Koekkoek was reassigned to AHL Syracuse, a sign Coburn must be ready. Koekkoek impressed the coaching staff in his latest callup. "Slater has not disappointed one time since he's been up here," Cooper said. "Now it's getting to the point where you can keep putting him out and you're not thinking, 'Is he nervous? Is something going to happen here?' He's playing with confidence and everytime he keeps getting brought up here he's improved and that's a really good sign. He's showing his growth in the minors and his growth as as player. It's great to see that. Unfortunately, there's not room for him at this moment, but hes' definitely playing himself in. And it's good for our organization."