When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Jonathan Drouin on Thursday, it underlined the importance of what a hometown star means in that market, says Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Language plays a factor in the province and Drouin, a native of Ste-Agathe, Que., speaks French and English.
“It matters,” Friedman said. “In North America, it probably doesn’t matter anywhere as much as it matters in Montreal.”
The Canadiens received Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a deal that sent defence prospect Mikhail Sergachev the other way.
“I think the other GMs in the league, they recognize it,” Friedman said of Drouin being Francophone. “A couple looked at that trade yesterday as, ‘Is that a good trade for Montreal?’ I said to one of them, ‘I don’t think you have the pressures in your market that the Canadiens do.’ He said, ‘I’d really hate to have to make a trade under those circumstances.’
“It’s the hardest market I think in the league to play in,” Friedman added. “It’s the most rewarding, but it’s also the toughest. The media is also different in Montreal. Quebec’s media is tough … I think the pressures of the job and the reaction to getting Drouin shows you the difference of being the GM of the Montreal Canadiens … as opposed to being the GM anywhere else in the league.”
Friedman also pondered what impact the 2016 trade of P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators had on Montreal’s recent deal. Subban went on to have a very successful run in this past season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Meanwhile the Habs were eliminated in the first round by the New York Rangers.
“They just got through a very difficult playoff … then they had to watch as the guy they traded, a very popular player in the province, came within two wins of the Stanley Cup,” said Friedman. “I always wonder, how much does that play? Do you look and say, ‘We need something that can excite our fans because they are upset with us.’
“I wonder how much of a factor that played into the trade.”