“Bergevin is admitting Drouin isn’t a center. What did I tell you!”
That seemed to be the main Habs refrain on Twitter last evening after Marc Bergevin’s mid-season press conference, or at least words to that effect.
There is a tendency for fans to overreact to things that are said at a press conference, and to consider some of the comments made as Gospel, and last night’s presser certainly elicited plenty of reaction.
You could tell by how he tried to expand on his admittance that Drouin would be better on the wing in a “perfect world” that Bergevin realized he probably shouldn’t have been said that…and he realized right afterwards that it wasn’t explained correctly.
We’re all guilty of not saying the right thing at times on the spur of the moment, and later on, thinking to ourselves “Damn…what I should have said was this.”
I’m pretty sure after the fact that Bergevin had one of those moments of regret, so as far as I’m concerned, I don’t believe what he said should be taken as Gospel. More than anything I looked at it as a moment of honesty where Bergevin was being too honest – he knows there is immense pressure on him to have a point-per-game center…today.
Here is my interpretation of what Bergevin was saying when he noted that “In the perfect world…if we had this number one center…this guy that could make plays (as a) high-end center…he’d probably be on the wing. But he still does…you know what..he still does the best for now for what we have.”
Is Bergevin suggesting that Drouin cannot play center as many on Twitter were espousing before that comment and are now stating even more vociferously? I don’t think so.
He is admitting that, in a perfect world, the Habs have, or could have, a John Tavares as the number-one center, with Drouin on his wing.
Ideally, in this Habs world currently sprinkled with red, white and blue fairy dust, Drouin is a first-line winger playing with a franchise center…I don’t think there’s a Habs fan alive that wouldn’t like to see that scenario.
My biggest take from that comment is that Bergevin thinks Drouin is a first-line forward. Right now that first-line position is in the middle, but if the Habs obtain one of the elite centers in hockey, Bergevin would prefer that Drouin play beside him rather than become a second-line player at center.
Is Bergevin saying, or does he think, that Drouin is poor at center?
Certainly not. He thinks he’s the best center in the organization, and that’s why he’s the top-line center, but even he admits that Drouin with 19 points has not produced at the level he had hoped going into the season.
That said, Bergevin and his management staff also know that Drouin is 22-year old and playing center in the NHL for the first time.
As one person in the organization told me in regards to the Drouin center experiment, “It’s a learning curve.” There’s no one connected to the club who thinks that Drouin can’t play there, or that he won’t only get better offensively at that position with experience.
Drouin has done a lot of things right during his tenure as the number-one center, and if he wasn’t, you can be sure that Julien would have moved him quicker than he benches Galchenyuk after a lost boards battle.
Julien demands solid defensive play from his pivots as one could tell from his time in Boston when even Tyler Seguin was relegated to the wing, and if Drouin wasn’t providing it, he wouldn’t be playing there.
Drouin has been quite mindful of his defensive duties, and it helps that he has excellent on-ice awareness, vision and hockey sense. In fact, it is my contention that Drouin has been paying so much attention to his defensive positioning and duties that it has resulted in him laying back at times and passing up on offensive opportunities.
It’s all part of the process though. Earn your coach’s trust first… then work on your offensive game.
Anyone who has scouted Drouin knows that the offensive skills are there in spades…he can pass, and yes… he can score… at any level.
He has been hanging back a lot though, and it’s understandable as he’s playing center for the first time at this level and facing other club’s top centermen. The confidence will build as he continues earning his coach’s trust, and his numbers will climb, quite possibly in the second-half of this season.
In the club’s first 41 games, Drouin averaged 0.5 point per game. That needs to be close to 1.0 point per game, and last night, in the first game of his second half, he had that one point. That’s what he needs per game to be more than acceptable as a first-line center, and it’s certainly attainable. Drouin is quite capable of scoring 35 points in the second-half of the season, perhaps even 40, as he gains confidence at his new position, and, ideally, some familiarity with set linemates.
Let’s hope the carousel of wingers stops and Julien finally settles on having Galchenyuk as his main partner on the top line. It was encouraging to see the two former third-overall picks staying on the ice well after practice ended to work on their games together this week; they are the most skilled players on the team, and thus should be playing together on the top line without worries of demotion.
Pacioretty with Drouin does not work no matter how often it’s tried, so move on and commit to the Drouin-Galchenyuk duo in earnest, including on the power play. Drouin has shown he can handle the defensive end of things…yes…even with Julien’s least favourite defensive player Galchenyuk on his wing.
There have been early signs that Julien will relax somewhat on his stringent conservative approach as it becomes evident that the Habs are missing the playoffs when he started an overtime with Galchenyuk, Jerabek and Drouin the other night, so there is hope among the fanbase that in the second-half Julien will relax the reins a little and let his offensive horses run. Heck…he may even put Scherbak with the two once they are officially out of the race and the talented 22-year-old is inevitably recalled.
Let’s not forget that the one major criticism fans had about playing Drouin at center was that he was not good enough defensively to play there, especially for Conservative Claude. That has not been the case, so I find it puzzling when fans strongly suggest that Drouin can’t play at center; he indeed can, and at both ends of the ice.
The one argument about Drouin being “better” on the wing because he would have more offensive freedom is one I will agree on. Yes, he would likely have more points right now if he had been on the wing, but he also wouldn’t have been making the same impact he has in the other three zones, either. It’s not all just about points, it’s about your overall game. I will take Drouin playing an all-around game and getting five less points per half season at center over Drouin playing on the wing when there no better option down the middle.
Now…if the Habs can somehow land a John Tavares…then I have zero qualms about Drouin going back to the wing, and at that point he would likely get more than five more points per half season, predominantly because he would be playing with Tavares instead of Shaw/Pacioretty/Lehkonen/Byron, etc.
Bergevin is 100 percent correct. Right now in Habsland it is not a perfect world, and right now Drouin is not a perfect first-line center. To suggest that admitting as much means Drouin can’t play center though is an imperfect conclusion.