Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin did not see the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday due to a disciplinary decision made by head coach Martin St. Louis after the forward missed a team meeting on Friday.
Asked about the situation following the game, a 5-3 loss, St. Louis said he felt the discipline was “fair” and credited Drouin for how he handled it.
“You never know when something’s gonna happen that, you don’t have real control over it — why it happens — and then in that time, you have to, especially as a leader, you have to have a response,” St. Louis told reporters. “And people are really watching your response, and you have to be calculated and firm but also fair. And I think tonight was a fair thing, and I think Jo handled it tremendously well.”
St. Louis said he and Drouin have “a great relationship.”
“I got to know him a lot this year, I think he’s had a great season for us. I love the kid, and for him to handle it the way he did, I gain even more respect for him,” he said. “So, I think we’re gonna turn the page on that. Monday, Jo will be back and we’re gonna move forward.”
Earlier Saturday, amid speculation about Drouin’s status for the game and what kind of message St. Louis might choose to send the forward, the coach told reporters Drouin would dress for the game but did not elaborate. In order to ice a full roster per league rules, Drouin could not be scratched after Kaiden Guhle was deemed unable to play due to injury.
When asked pregame if Guhle’s absence was a factor in including Drouin to the lineup, St. Louis answered: “I would say probably, yes.”
Drouin was the only Canadiens player to not take a single shift in Saturday’s game.
The 27-year-old was held out of Friday’s practice in Tampa after missing a team meeting but took part in Saturday’s morning skate alongside Anthony Richard and Michael Pezzetta on the Habs’ fourth line.
“We all know Jo, he’s a good guy and you never want that to happen to anyone,” Richard told reporters in French Saturday morning. “We need to turn the page and learn from this. I’m not worried, he’ll be back stronger and he’ll bounce back, for sure.
“I don’t think it’s the first time that this happened in the hockey world and for the rest, for us as players, it’s not a situation that’s in our control.”
Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki was asked about the situation after the game, and made it clear that the same sort of punishment would have been handed to anyone should they have missed the meeting.
“Being late is unacceptable,” Suzuki said. “There are things that happen sometimes you can’t control, but if you’re late, you’re late. Just a thing that’s been preached ever since Marty’s been here. Just unacceptable, if happens to someone else it’s the same consequences.”
Drouin, in the final year of his six-year, $33-million contract with Montreal, has picked up one goal and 25 assists in 46 games this season.