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Through the highs and the lows, Jonathan Drouin showed the player he is

A season of extremes ended with Drouin in the middle.

Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

They say that the difference between good and great is consistency, and, well, that statement may apply to Jonathan Drouin more than any player on the Montreal Canadiens.

Drouin actually finished third in team scoring and led the team in power-play points over the season, but down the stretch he was the subject of anger and frustration — and deservedly so. In the last 26 games, he had one goal and six assists for seven points. But perhaps more damaging than the pure point totals is that those seven points came in three games, meaning he was held pointless in 23 of his last 26 games.

Yet through his hot and cold streaks, Drouin remained a very similar player. The only difference between “good” Drouin and “bad” Drouin was how many pucks were going in the net — at both ends. What was seen as effective play through the first 55 games of the season turned into lazy play and frustrating inconsistency.

The last 26 games of the season actually saw Drouin increase his shot share when on the ice, from 22nd of 26 Canadiens players in the first 55 games to eighth of 25 players over his final 26. The rest of his numbers in terms of scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances were remarkably similar. His expected goals share, which looks at where shots from both teams are being taken and the likelihood of them going in, was exactly the same through both stretches.

The biggest differences are what we tend to notice most: actual goals. It went from the Canadiens scoring 55% of the goals while he was on the ice to just 37.5%, and a lot of that simply came down to luck. He had good fortune through the first 55 games, but for the final 26 games his luck didn’t simply regress to the mean, it became incredibly bad luck.

In games one to 55, he was eighth in PDO, which adds the team’s shooting percentage with a player on the ice to the team’s save percentage in those minutes, with a total of 1.019 (average is expected to be 1.000). Through the worst stretch of his season, starting February 9, his PDO was 0.936. That was fourth-worst on the team, and the only players worse than him played a handful of games: Michael Chaput (one game), Matthew Peca (six games) and Nicolas Deslauriers (seven games) had just 14 games combined compared to Drouin’s 26.

This isn’t to say that Drouin shouldn’t be better, or that he shouldn’t be called out for bad stretches. It’s simply to show that he may not have been as good as he showed in the first part of the season, and he isn’t nearly as bad as he was through the final stretch of the season.

He had 16 power-play points, which were five more than the next higher power-play scorer. The power play wasn’t very good (the understatement of the century), but when it does improve — and it will improve — Drouin will be a major part of its success. His biggest skills are evident on the man advantage when he can have extra time and space with the puck. That being said, the power play’s struggles also fell on him as he was the one to handle the puck most often.

An improved power play will give Drouin a nicer number in the statistics section. You’d be hard-pressed as it is to find a player who finished third on his team in scoring who was more scrutinized.

Drouin can be better. He can be more consistent. He can be more engaged on a night-to-night basis. He can start to help the team in ways that don’t show up in the scoresheet. All of those things are true. And so is the fact that Drouin is a top-six player in the NHL.

But perception matters, and points aren’t everything. There won’t be anyone saying that Drouin is better than Brendan Gallagher even though Drouin had more points. That determination is based on more than just offence.

After the 2017-18 season, we were left wondering whether Drouin was a centre or a winger and what kind of player he was. Going into the 2019-20 season, we now know what kind of player Drouin is. We also know what he needs to do better.