Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Jones: Adding Jonathan Drouin good move for Lightning

TAMPA

Good move.

Absolutely the right thing to do. Forget about what happened in the past. Forget about the message that might be sent. Forget about yesterday.

The Lightning needs help today, tomorrow. It needs help next week, maybe next month. And Jonathan Drouin is help. Big-time help. Elite-talent help.

Drouin is back with the Lightning and that's the way it should be. Good for Drouin. And good for the Lightning. Everything about this is good.

When you're fighting to win the most coveted trophy in sports, when you're trying to win a championship this difficult, you take all the help you can get. When injuries start picking off your best players, you call in the cavalry. Well, look who's riding shotgun. Drouin, the guy you never thought you'd see wearing a Lightning sweater again.

Isn't this story delicious? Drouin was gone. Shipped to the minors. Demanded a trade. Quit the team. He took his stick and puck and stomped his feet and held his breath all the way home. He said to heck with the Lightning.

And the Lightning said to heck with him.

He was gone, dead and buried. Forgotten forever.

Now can you imagine this kid lifting the Stanley Cup over his head? For the Lightning?

Many fans hate this move. He quit. Let him rot, they say. Teach him a lesson. Don't give in to some spoiled brat.

That's reckless. That's irresponsible. That's cutting off your nose — or, in this case, your first-round pick — to save your face. That's dumb.

The Lightning is in no position to dole out some silly, spiteful justice simply to prove a point to a 21-year-old kid who, because of a brain cramp and some bad advice from adults who should've known better, acted like a 21-year-old kid.

Get over it. Time to let go of the past and get Drouin in here to help with the present and immediate future.

With Steven Stamkos out one to three months because of a blood clot, the Lightning suddenly needs a very skilled forward. Regardless of what you think about what Drouin did, you can't deny that he is a very skilled forward. Players that good aren't hanging out on frozen ponds looking for work.

Besides, hasn't Drouin paid his penance? Yes, he quit the team. But once the trade deadline passed, he came back, helmet in hand, and reported to the minors. Aside from sleeping through an alarm and missing a team meeting, Drouin has done everything asked of him. He has worked hard. He hasn't complained. He has played well.

He has earned his way back to Tampa Bay.

This isn't a favor. This is a reward. And the Lightning is filling a gaping hole with one of its talented assets.

Credit general manager Steve Yzerman for deftly handling this soap opera responsibly. Of all the things he has done with the Lightning — and that list is impressive — this might be his finest hour. He has been masterful. He has stood his ground and always done what was best for the organization.

He sent Drouin to the minors because it was best for Drouin's development. He didn't let a kid and his agent dictate how to run his organization. He didn't trade Drouin just to trade him; he wanted to make sure that any deal brought back full value. He continued to stand his ground when the trade deadline passed. He welcomed Drouin back to the minors. He did all those things because they were best for the organization.

And now, calling up Drouin is best for the organization.

If you have trusted Yzerman throughout this whole thing, then you should trust him now.

At best, Drouin goes on a scoring tear, leads the Lightning to the Stanley Cup and becomes a pivotal member of the organization for years to come. At worst, this ugly chapter has been swept away and Drouin's trade value goes up again.

The only concern is how this is going to play in the locker room. But believe me, Yzerman would not have recalled Drouin if he thought it was going to be an issue. Yzerman was a player. He knows how this will go.

The players are going to be more than okay with this. For starters, players know better than anyone that this is a business. They don't get in the middle of things like contract disputes and demotions and so forth. What Drouin did was between him and the front office, as far as the players are concerned. They don't think like fans do in this regard.

Players also want to win. They would welcome anybody who is going to help that cause. You watch. Drouin will be welcomed with open arms.

So, will coach Jon Cooper play Drouin regularly? You have to think he and Yzerman talked about this before Thursday.

Like the players, Cooper wants to win. He will put his best team on the ice, and if he believes Drouin helps that effort, Drouin will get ice time. The better he plays, the more ice time he will get. That's how Cooper deals with every player. That's how every coach deals with every player.

This has been a crazy story. Twists and turns. Ups and downs. He said-he said and more he-said.

But the soap opera appears over. Drouin is back with the Lightning.

That's a good thing.

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