Win or lose, Jonathan Drouin’s return to the Habs is a triumph


During his absence from professional hockey, it seemed entirely possible that Jonathan Drouin’s tenure with the Montreal Canadiens – and possibly his career – was over.

So when the 26-year-old Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts finished a 2-1 to score the Habs first goal of the 2021-22 season, to many it seemed almost surreal.

“Today alone, going to the ice was a completely different experience than the last two years,” said Drouin after Wednesday night’s game in Toronto.

Drouin retired from hockey in April, in the middle of last season. Recently, he revealed that he suffers from mental health issues, including anxiety and insomnia.

“A hundred times better, my head is clearer, I’m more into the game, I’m more focused … It’s good to have one. But I wish we had the two points in the game. up, ”Drouin said of his goal in the team’s opener of the regular season.

Yes, the Habs lost the game to historic rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs on opening night by a score of 2-1, but Drouin’s goal was a triumph for fans, friends, and fans. family and teammates who wanted him to recover.

He’s taken the time he needs to deal with his issues, and while it’s still early days, he seems to be in a place where he can start concentrating again to be good at his job.

Montreal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin, left, and Josh Anderson face off on day one of ice training camp Thursday September 23, 2021 in Brossard, Que. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

It may seem like a simple formula to most of us, but until recently the topic of mental health in professional athletes was considered almost too taboo to discuss.

That is changing thanks to athletes like Drouin, who manage to admit to themselves that they need help and who also find the courage to do so in the public spotlight.

If only the entire 2021-22 season of the Montreal Canadiens could be filled with moments of well-being like this goal.

Is another trip to the Stanley Cup final too much to ask?

The race for the Stanley Cup final last season was something Habs fans will never forget.

But professional sport is “what have you been doing for me lately?” kind of a world and in a hockey hotbed like Montreal, nostalgia isn’t just a pre-game ceremony at the Bell Center, it’s a standard that teams are held to year after year.

It might be difficult for Montreal to live up to that standard this season.

The Habs have had a series of notable starts over the offseason, including several important pieces of veteran leadership that helped them navigate the NHL playoffs last spring.

Captain Shea Weber’s body is so worn that he’s unlikely to play this season.

Corey Perry turned his resurgent performance in 2020-21 into a two-year contract with Tampa Bay via free agency.

Montreal goaltender Carey Price, left, and defenseman Shea Weber congratulate each other on a win over the Philadelphia Flyers last year. The two veterans are absent from the game for health reasons. (Elsa / Getty Images)

Frontline center Phillip Danault left in free agency to sign with the LA Kings.

Young forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi was lured to the Carolina Hurricanes with a controversial offer.

And it’s unclear what’s in store for star goaltender Carey Price as he’s taken time off from the sport to participate in the league’s player assistance program. A social media post from his wife, Angela, said “the importance of prioritizing your mental health not just by saying it, but by presenting yourself and doing the work to get better.”

That’s a lot of holes to fill and, unlike last season, the Canadiens are back in their traditional Atlantic division.

“We know it’s going to be tough, we’re in one of the toughest divisions in the league here,” Habs assistant captain Brendan Gallagher said.

Reasons to believe

On the bright side, roster turnover is nothing new to the NHL and the Canadiens have a number of players who look set to carry a much bigger load this season.

Cole Caufield is entering his first full professional season and, after seeing what he is capable of in the playoffs last year, fans are already counting the days until he joins the ranks of the league’s top scorers.

Nick Suzuki, who has just signed a new eight-year, $ 63 million contract extension, looks set to have a stellar season.

Forward Nick Suzuki, 22, got an eight-year, US $ 63 million contract extension on Tuesday after helping the Canadians reach the Stanley Cup final earlier this year for the first time since 1993. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images / File)

On the blue line, there is still hope that youngster Alexander Romanov will be the eventual key to unlocking the Habs’ mid-range power play.

And then there is Drouin.

So far, he has not lived up to the on-ice expectations set for him when he arrived in Montreal. But what a story it would be if he did it this year and in the future.

It should also be noted that no matter what happens with Drouin on the ice, his contributions off the ice are exceptional. Among his charities, he donates $ 50,000 per year to the CHUM Hospital Foundation and is on track to fulfill his promise to raise an additional five million dollars.

Canadians recognized his efforts by awarding him the Jean Béliveau Trophy for Community Leadership this year.

It’s a good lesson that there are a lot of ways to win besides lifting the Lord Stanley Cup.

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