Their last names both start with the letter ‘D’. They were both born in March 1995. Both have had great junior careers and have shown flashes of brilliance. Both were drafted by other NHL teams and were acquired via trade by the Canadiens. Natural left wingers, both were tried at centre due to team needs when they first arrived in Montreal. They are buddies off ice and they love playing together on the same line. They bring a somewhat similar set of skills although one, when on his game, has a bit more grit. The other has slightly more finesse to his game. But neither of them has, up until this point, shown the consistency needed to be considered a good NHL player. One on whom coaches can count on night in, night out. And in both cases, they’re not known for their defensive acumen and when they’re on, everyone understands why both were picked in the top-12 at the 2013 NHL Draft.
For each player coming into the NHL, comes a time when he reaches “his ceiling”. That’s when the player stops developing and is… who he is. Players often arrive to that point between the ages of 23 to 30 years old. Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi are 25 and soon, they will have reached their own ceiling. The question Habs’ management and coaching staff are pondering is if they are there now or if they have more to show. Based on the flashes they’re both displaying, it seems like there’s room for improvement. But there’s as much disappointment as there are celebrations in both cases and that’s becoming an alarming issue.
Acquired in a trade that saw the local talent coming from Tampa Bay for blue chip prospect Mikhail Sergachev, the one they call Jo has suffered his fair share of setbacks. Injuries have hampered his game, his development. What’s most often questioned – and I don’t know that it’s a fair assessment – is his heart. People often question the effort he puts in games. I like to think that particularly in the past two years, the effort has been there. But there’s a fine balance between working hard and working efficiently, or working smart as I call it. Your feet might be moving but are they heading in the right direction?
What you see might just be what you get for a player who will turn 26 years old in March. His career best is 21 goals and 53 points. His combined career plus/minus ratio sits at minus -53 and he has been a minus player in the last four years. He’s definitely not the stick that stirs the drink and frustration is perhaps the best word to describe him as a player. He’s frustrated, the coaching staff is frustrated and fans definitely are frustrated. Because everyone sees the potential.
I give him until the end of next season before calling this trade a win for the Lightning, one of the rare trades lost by Marc Bergevin. I want to see him perform healthy so here’s hoping injuries aren’t once again a factor.
With a bit of an edge to his game, Domi brings a different set of skills to the game. More successful than his buddy Drouin at centre, his play has plummeted after his one outstanding season. Unlike Drouin however, he has had a 72-points season. But his game has fallen off this past season, returning to a production similar to his rookie year in Arizona.
Some people claim that he’s pouting as he seems to have lost his centre position to young Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. I don’t know Max personally but if it’s the case, it would be greatly disappointing coming from a guy who appears to be a character player.
Domi recently made the headlines across the league when he removed all mentions of the Habs and Montreal from his social media profiles. He has since apparently put some of it back on, likely realising the backlash such a move had created. He is a very good trade bait for the Canadiens and we will see soon enough if has played his last game with Montreal or not. Regardless of the outcome, Bergevin won that trade hands down as Alex Galchenyuk has since bounced around, going from deception to deception.
What should the Canadiens do now? Really, there aren’t limited options for Bergevin and the coaching staff and there is no doubt that there have been discussions between them already.
There are three options for one, or both of them:
- Keep them/one and stop having expectations that they’ll get any better
- Trade them/one for whatever you can get
- Expose them/one for the Expansion Draft and hope Seattle picks one of them up.
My gut tells me that it’s the end of the road in Montreal for Domi. He will be traded for either an upgrade on left defense, size on the top-6 or to be in a better position in the NHL Draft on October 9th. As for Drouin, he’s a local product, one of talent and he will be given another chance, whether we agree with it or not. I personally believe that if you give him a right winger with size and grit to make room for him on the ice, he will turn into a 65-75 points winger. Interesting times ahead as both friends could very well be separated within the next few weeks. Go Habs Go!