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An open letter to Jonathan Drouin

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We've never met, I'm just rambling, but as a fan I wanted to address some thing in as direct a capacity as I'm capable.

Scott Thomas

Jonathan,

We don't know each other. We've never met and for at least one reason or another we likely never will. I'm just a random hockey fan in Tampa Bay who happens to talk about the Tampa Bay Lightning and the NHL online (and have done so for a long time). If you actually read this remains to be seen, and what you take from it might be nothing but negativity. By suggesting negativity, I ought to be clear and tell you that I'm not out to go after you here... It's just from the standpoint where I write that I'm not in the know. I'm not a team figure, I'm not tied closely with anyone at 401 Channelside Drive, I sure don't know anyone at Octagon Hockey / have a social relationship with them, much less the Halifax Mooseheads. So if my approach seems misinformed, I apologize outright.

Yet the picture that's been painted to the general public since January 3rd (and arguably before it) does not paint such an understandable picture from your perspective of things in the 2015-16 NHL season.

I've said this a few times in publication and in online comments that you earn opportunity. Yesterday alone I made the remark, and also added on the fact what you did in the Q no longer holds bearing. The slate was wiped clean. You're at zero, so to speak, in accomplishment stature in the league. While general managers and media people have gone back to your coach in Halifax and those who saw and knew you back in the day... Well, that's the thing - that remark I just made comes off like I'm talking about something ancient and yet past-status alone makes feats moot. You had to / have to do it now, from the ground up. Despite media rhetoric or what plays out around you in Quebec at the moment, you're not on a pedestal. Not until you achieve and accomplish in the NHL.

There's a remark that's played out in social media among fans during all this, trying to find your justification mentality, that your success with the Mooseheads and with your as a former high draft pick helped create your expectation of where you're to play in a hockey game and a superstar mentality. You've been applauded for the skill set you have, you've been complimented by the locker room, by management, by coaching. What has come off as the problem here is that applying those skills haven't been where in the lineup you wish them to happen. You've been challenged to do more and play a broader game, giving you the task of learning how to handle other situations that aren't the things 1st line players typically handle. The reason for that is simply to make you ready to cover it as a top line player in instances where it plays out while the top line is on the ice.

You know this better than I do. Shit happens during play and you got to be prepped for it and capable of handling it.

From what I've seen and read, that seems to have hit you wrong. The idea the Lightning wanted you to continue honing your game prevents you from accomplishing and moving forward. Yet the Lightning locker room is filled with those who have achieved by way of this. Many of the forwards on the roster, sans for Stamkos, had to go through this process in their own ways. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat had to spend extra time in juniors and the AHL, college for Alex Killorn and J.T. Brown before AHL time. Valtteri Filppula went through this in the Red Wings system - and his name is on Lord Stanley's Cup with thanks to the diligence he put in beforehand. Vladdy Namestnikov has toiled in junior, in the AHL, and continues to toil (while also showing remarkable ability) in the NHL.

Jonathan, it's a process of becoming... They've done the deed. It - the lower line time in the NHL and even the reassignment to Syracuse - has been your time to go through that process. If you've felt sullied or humiliated by it, you're letting the wrong emotions and thoughts lead you.

There's a segment of fans - both in Tampa Bay and elsewhere in this league - that have you penciled in for that top-line wing position and think all of what the Lightning have done is a mistake. They see you as justified getting upset... For those fans out of town, the due process and what's been established as a development pipeline isn't part of the storyline. For the local fans with that track, the one-level thought is what the club is and has; there is nothing more than the NHL and there is no other aspect of the game than goal scoring and winning (well, except for the aspect losses suck). Some with the grander perspective can argue that you have only been given a minimum opportunity to shine; the lack of top-line minutes has ruined the productivity of your young career and has insulted your skill set. An aspect not touched on with this, Jonathan, is that you aren't locked in with what you can do in a lower-line capacity. There's too much NHL history of players who played their way out of lower-line roles by showing they had the offensive skill/ability that made their optimal place in the top-6.

People crow about your skills. You have to show them in the role you're given. If coaching deliberately restrained you from trying to be offensive in a lower-line role, that was where you were tasked with showing a conflict with the club - by defying it and showing (in a competitive capacity) what you're capable of on ice. Instead, things went south in your attempt to achieve exit.

What I don't understand, Jonathan, is what kind of hockey club did you think you were drafted by that had you think you're among the top-tier guys without having to show it to coaching or improve your general game play? If this were the Lightning of 1999, when this club was a lost and rebuilding organization in transition to its third owner in two years, would have given you what you wanted without much debate or tasking you besides  in power play time. I can say in contrast that the team that preceded it by two seasons (1997-98) may not have gone that route, giving you carte blanch. If you want proof, Jonathan, read up about a guy named Daymond Langkow. In the position you're in as a professional hockey player, you wouldn't exactly be wrong to reach to him and find out about his rationale and guiding points to his issues in Tampa and reassignment to the minors.

The Lightning at the moment is a far, far cry from what it was like back then. The league itself is at that distant difference from those days as well.

There's another aspect that I don't understand, Jonathan, and it comes to the contradiction of your walk-out from the Syracuse Crunch. Seven games played and you walked away to sit and await a trade that didn't come. With all due respect, that was the poorest salesmanship that you could have made for yourself, and I don't just mean on the competitive level. By playing and competing in Syracuse you were making a sales pitch on the trade market and showing the world what you could do. By walking away from it, you muted your sales job of your game and also told every interested party that you were not going to dedicate yourself to your team. You didn't want to be in the minors, that point is clear, and the best way to earn your way out (with the Lightning or by way of trade) was to show you belonged in a higher caliber competitive league. In other words, Jonathan, you had to earn your escape. Choosing to leave, leading to your suspension, marred your personal investment in the team you are bound to. Even if you had the opinion at the moment that you didn't want to prop up any aspect of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club due to the reassignment to the AHL - it was the only true and fast escape route from the minors that you had: influencing a recall and/or influencing a trade.

If there's been another aspect of life as a player in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization - a franchise habit, a daily-life problem, a complication on a personal level you're struggling with, or even personnel issues and a conflict between you and your teammates, the pro course of action with that was to talk to those above you directly about it and try to solve the problem.

There's more things to talk about, Jonathan, and at the same time I might have already pissed you off real good by my lack of understanding of what's the absolute truth behind this-and-that. Presenting this take in this letter is just one fan sharing opinion; I'm just some clown at a keyboard who doesn't know what really has gone on in your hockey life. I don't know your day-to-day life, I don't know you... I should have every doubt that I can sway you or influence you on road to reconciliation.

I do know one thing, though - I can forgive you. That goal probably isn't an accomplishment you seek. It's a challenge that lays in front of you if you decide you'll go back to play in Syracuse (and eventually Tampa). Being in hockey and trying to win back over the crowd is easy... at least for someone who is supposed to be as potent and as capable as you. You still have to earn it though. That's a remark I can't drop. Not until the deed is done and the task accomplished.

Best regards,
John