Teammates surprised by Drouin trade request, believe he'll be back
The news of Jonathan Drouin's November trade request broke Sunday afternoon while the Lightning was on a plane headed for Calgary.
And, apparently, that was the first his teammates - and coach Jon Cooper - had heard about Drouin's desire to leave.
"I don't think anyone really saw that coming," goalie Ben Bishop said.
"If that stuff has been bothering him, he hasn't let that come into the room," captain Steven Stamkos said.
"All that stuff is kind of surprising, to be honest," Cooper said.
Lightning players were supportive of Drouin after today's practice in Calgary, saying he's been a "real pro," a "great kid" and "tremendous talent." Teammates believe - and hope - that the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 remains with the organization. Drouin, reassigned to AHL Syracuse Saturday, is expected to join the Crunch today. Cooper said the touted wing would be welcomed back to Tampa Bay with open arms, adding this hasn't added a strain to their relationship.
"You never want to be in a situation where somebody wants out," Cooper said. "This is probably not the first player that's ever asked for it. But it's too bad. Because the time we've had Jonathan, it's another situation you wouldn't see this coming..
"But who knows. Who knows how this is going to end up? We're sitting here 24 hours after this has happened but who knows, Jonathan may be with this tema in a few weeks and maybe playing the minutes he wants. We don't know how this is going to turn out."
GM Steve Yzerman said in a statement Sunday he acknowledges Drouin's request - formally made in November by agent Allan Walsh, who went public Sunday. But Yzerman said he'll do what's in the best interest of the organization. "Jonathan is part of the Tampa Bay Lightning," Cooper said. "He was a high-draft pick for a reason. We think he can make us a better hockey team."
Cooper said Drouin, 20, who has played in just 19 games this season due to injury, was sent to Syracuse "strictly to get him minutes and get him back." With everyone getting healthy at the same time, Tampa Bay had 14 forwards, and Drouin wasn't waiver-eligible. "When he's ready to come back," Cooper said, "I'm sure he will be."
Clearly, Drouin appears to not feel he's been put in the best situation to succeed, whether it was playing bottom-six minutes for most of last season to getting scratched in 20 of 26 playoff games.
"I think guys realize what has gone on since Jonathan has come into the league," Stamkos said. "I can certainly attest to coming in at that age, hoping for the best right away, and wanting certain things that you're accustomed to getting right away, whether you deserve it, whether some coaches give you a chance right away. Every organization, every coach has different view on it. You look back on those first two years, if you get through that, and it sucked at the time, but I can speak from experience, it made me a better player, better person, just know how difficult it is in this league and what you have to do, and sometimes the break you get to be successful when you look back and say it was for the best.
"We're all hoping that's the case for Jo. He's still our teammate. He's still a great kid. He's still our friend. Hope he goes down and lights it up and comes back here and help our team. Because he's that type of player. He can make a difference on a nightly basis."
It definitely begs the question on what responsibility the Lightning organization should shoulder for this. No matter how you slice it, a No. 3 overall pick is asking for a trade. What can the Lightning learn from this, so it won't happen again?
"I don't know if I can sit here and say why he wants out, or what are the reasons," Cooper said. "That's for Jonathan and his agent and Steve Yzerman. One thing here, internally, when we sit here as a coaching staff and as a staff, our job is to coach and win hockey games and get the best out of our players. And with everyone that has come through here, we feel we've done our best to do that. Unfortunately whatever Jonathan and his agent has given as a reason, we've never intended that. One thing is when players are drafted and put through our systsem, it behooves us to make them the best possible players we can to help our team win. That's what we want to do and that's what we're trying to do."
So how will this end? Only time will tell.
"I fully expect him to be back up here later playing well," Bishop said. "And we'll probably laugh about (the trade request)."