Jones: Give Jonathan Drouin a hand Thursday. If you notice him.

Youth Jonathan Drouin Montreal Canadiens Adidas Authentic Pro Jersey
Youth Jonathan Drouin Montreal Canadiens Adidas Authentic Pro Jersey

Jonathan Drouin returns to Jonathan Drouin Jerseys Tampa Bay on Thursday for the first time since last summer’s trade.

“It’s going to be mixed, like a lot of trades,’’ Drouin told Tampa Bay Times Lightning writer Joe Smith. “Some people obviously still like me, and some people didn’t like what I did. That’s just normal and part of what happened in Tampa. No matter what happens, I’ll have a lot of respect for the city and the fans and the team.’’

What we all thought was going to be the most anticipated regular-season game of the year is just another Thursday night for the best team in the NHL.

Jonathan? Jonathan Who?

Funny how it has panned out. Lightning fans just about lost their minds when they learned their favorite team traded Drouin, a maddening yet wildly talented scorer, to the Canadiens. He was only 22 and had shown enough flashes of brilliance that fans thought he would haunt Tampa Bay forever.

It wasn’t if Drouin was going to be an elite player, but when.

Drouin had a bumpy career with Tampa Bay, even quitting the franchise for a spell. But that all seemed to be in the past as Drouin put up 21 goals and 32 assists last season, many of them worthy of highlight reels. He looked well on his way to being a Lightning star for the next decade. But something always felt off between Drouin and Lightning. There was a disconnect.

So the Lightning traded him to Customized Montreal Canadiens Jerseys the team where he grew up: Montreal.

“This is a dream come true,’’ Drouin said at his first news conference with the Canadiens.

But it could prove to be a nightmare.

It’s not easy playing for the Canadiens. The fans demand greatness. The media can be overwhelming. It can be especially tough on young French-Canadian players who are quickly compared to Montreal legends such as Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur. Many have gone there and failed. Probably the last truly great French-Canadian to become a superstar was a goalie. But even Patrick Roy’s time in Montreal ended on a sour note when he was traded.

“When you’re Francophone here, it comes with responsibilities,” former Montreal forward Vincent Damphousse told Sports Illustrated in October. “A lot of people want it, but they can’t do it. To perform and be the leading scorer, you need a special talent. Jonathan certainly has that. We’ve been looking for that No. 1 center for years in Montreal, someone who can take this team to the next level.’’

Drouin might be that player someday. He’s not there yet.

Drouin is having a Cheap Jerseys so-so season. In 32 games, he has only five goals and 13 assists. His 18 points are tied for third on a team that doesn’t have much scoring to begin with. Worst of all, he is minus-15, lending credence to the belief in Tampa Bay that he has never realized there are two nets on the ice.

Making it even worse for Drouin is just how well the guy traded for him is doing in Tampa Bay. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev is actually outscoring Drouin. In 35 games, Sergachev has eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points, which is eighth on the Lightning and tied for first among NHL rookie defensemen. He’s plus-12 and certainly should be included in the rookie-of-the-year conversation.

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