Jonathan Drouin’s fractured thumb could keep him out until the beginning of the season and the question is what to do when he comes back.
There’s no question Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper wants to see Drouin in the line-up, but when he comes back do you send him to the AHL for a conditioning assignment or just throw him to the fire?
While Drouin is sitting in on meetings going over tape and understanding Cooper’s system on paper, he hasn’t been able to put it together other than during rookie camp and the first couple days of the regular camp. We haven’t seen him paired with NHL regulars yet to see how he performs or how he will stack up against the competition to figure where to slot him.
The pre-season games were supposed to do that but that’s now close to impossible.
If you send him to Syracuse, he’ll be executing something similar to Cooper’s system, but it’s more about getting him in game playing shape. The timing of sending him north would be key.
I would think that the team would like to see him take reps in practice with guys like Filppula, Johnson and Kucherov to figure out where Drouin fits. Then, once he’s ready, send him up to Syracuse for two games before coming down.
The concern is if some duster in the minor leagues would try to go after Drouin trying to get noticed and injures him worse. Though at this point, he already had a freak injury falling on his own thumb, so bad luck can’t strike twice, can it?
But the hassle might not even be worth it to send Drouin to Syracuse to worry about making it through an AHL game OK and not out place then getting used to Tampa again. If he were a regular rookie starting in the AHL anyway, as a call-up he’d have less than a day to get ready and learn on the fly.
The “cautious approach” and “long-term investment” the team wanted to take with Drouin would be somewhat void seemingly now rushing him into action as soon as he’s healthy. If he comes back. But even the best laid plans fail.
If there’s any silver lining, Drouin’s temporary absence ought to allow Brett Connolly to breathe easier knowing there’s one roster spot that is freed up for now.
That and if Drouin times it right, his debut could be against the Montreal Canadiens here in Tampa for a marquee matchup.