The wackiest story ever told is halfway done. All Jonathan Drouin has to do from here is be a star.
For Drouin, who skates into the NHL playoffs Wednesday night with his Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings, it has been a vexing season. He was idle. He was demoted. He was ticked. He left his team. He was suspended. His agents made threats. He was on the trading block, but not enough teams showed enough interest. He was suspended again. He was reinstated. He was promoted. And now, after all of it, he seems to have found a home.
Drouin scored two goals in his last two games, but both of them were on the road. Wednesday, he plays in front of the home crowd.
“Everybody has their own opinion,” Drouin told the Tampa Tribune. “Some fans are not happy about it. But I’ve got to respect … I did the stuff … I’ve got to respect their opinion and hopefully it’s a good show.”
Doubtlessly, Drouin probably still believes he was being underused. But with Steven Stamkos out, the Lightning needs the juice in their lineup.
“I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder as well,” Drouin said. “I have stuff to prove and it’s up to me to prove it. All of this. You want to show you deserve being in the NHL. You deserve your shot. I have a lot of stuff to show to the fans, and myself, and my teammates here.”
If Drouin can help with the firepower, perhaps the Lightning can upset the Red Wings even without Stamkos and Anton Stralman. He can make a lot of g.m. Regret not offering more. He can be the talk of the NHL…in a good way.
“I just feel more comfortable,” Drouin said. “This time around, I feel more ready than last year at this time. I didn’t know what to expect from the playoffs in the NHL. This year, I feel way more ready. It’s more of a challenge and I’m ready to attack that right away.”