Saturday, 16 April 2016

Quick Thoughts on Drouin's Start to the 2016 Playoffs

One of the big questions for the Tampa Bay Lightning heading into the playoffs this year was who would fill the void left by Steven Stamkos, who continues to sit on the sidelines after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm.  Down the stretch in the regular season, offence was at a premium, so it was only natural to wonder who would replace one of the game's biggest scoring threats.  Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson have done a lot of the heavy lifting through two games, but another guy who deserves oodles of credit is Jonathan Drouin.

Yes, that Jonathan Drouin.  The same Jonathan Drouin who wanted out by the trade deadline.  The same Jonathan Drouin who sat at home for a huge chunk of the season.  He's been fantastic, and he's quickly establishing himself as a very important piece for the Lightning.  Maybe trading him isn't such a good idea, after all.

I've spent a lot of time discussing Drouin over the last year-plus.  My thoughts on the situation have been made very clear: I'm not one of those people who didn't believe that he was "NHL ready" when he was up with the team to start the year.  I'm not one of those people who thinks his defensive game means he needs to be sheltered.  I've maintained for a long time that he's one of the most dynamic young players in the league, a guy who always finds an opportunity to create.  And, while perhaps not to the same extent as me, it appears that head coach Jon Cooper is starting to see the same things.  During the first two games of his team's series against the Detroit Red Wings, Cooper has actually given Drouin quality minutes.  The results speak for themselves.

While the sample size is admittedly small, the fact of the matter is that no Lightning forward has received more five-on-five ice time than Drouin so far in the postseason.  And he's making the most of that ice time, as evidenced by his 58.93% Corsi rating; only Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, and Jason Garrison rank higher on that list.  When Drouin is on the ice, the Lightning have the puck.  When Drouin is on the ice, the puck is moving towards the opponent's net.  Over time, that will start to reflect itself on the scoreboard.  It did last night, as Drouin tallied a very nice assist on Brian Boyle's first of the playoffs.

Of course, one of the (bad) arguments against using Corsi as a tool for analysis is that it fails to take shot quality into account.  Well, Drouin's "High-Danger Scoring Chances For" percentage is 66.67% through two games, meaning that when he's on the ice the Lightning are generating two-thirds of the good scoring chances occurring on the ice.  No Tampa forward does better in that category.  The opponent is rarely a threat to score when #27 is buzzing around out there.  That sort of statistic should help to silence any talk about Drouin needing work on his defensive game, especially if he can keep it up.

Beyond all that (I know this is weak analysis), Drouin *looks* good out there.  He appears to be playing with confidence.  He's involved.  He's making things happen.  There isn't a team in the league that couldn't use what Drouin is bringing right now.  If the coach keeps playing him, good things will come.

As said, the sample size is small.  There will probably be some regression.  There will likely be a bad night or two.  But, the bottom line here is that Drouin has the ability to really help this team.  The coach should continue to play him until either Drouin's legs fall off or the Lightning are eliminated.  Whichever comes first.

One final point: Don't call this Drouin's emergence.  He's been really good for a long while.  The difference now is that, for at least two games, he's been given a chance.

As always, thanks for reading.

(All statistics courtesy of, a premier source for hockey analytics.)

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