Anxiety, insomnia prompted Drouin’s leave of absence from Canadiens

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In an interview with TSN/RDS, Jonathan Drouin said that he took a leave of absence from the Canadiens due to anxiety and insomnia problems.

Drouin explained that he’s been dealing with anxiety issues for years, and believes that anxiety also led to issues with insomnia. As hard as it was to not be able to play with the Canadiens — including during a surprise run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final — it sounds like Drouin is confident that he made the right choice. He also indicated that he’s happy to be back skating with teammates again.

While those issues nagged Drouin for years, he really hit a wall during a series of games against the Flames in late April. At the time, the Canadiens only specified that he was missing time due to a “non-COVID illness.”

Drouin discusses Canadiens absence, issues with anxiety and insomnia

In the U.S. alone, about 18-percent of people deal with anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, it’s highly common for people, such as Drouin, to deal with both anxiety and sleep issues.

No doubt, these are issues that a lot of people struggle with. In Drouin’s case, there might are factors that could accelerate challenges like anxiety. Consider his career path.

  • The Lightning selected Drouin third overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. There was plenty of room for debate among the top selections of that draft, as after Nathan MacKinnon, Drouin, Aleksander Barkov, and Seth Jones could’ve been selected in a variety of different orders.

  • His development path was bumpy with the Lightning. On one hand, his marvelous displays of skill made him highly GIF-worthy. On the other hand, defensive issues prompted Jon Cooper to chide Drouin that there are “two nets.”

  • Ultimately, he was traded to the Canadiens for a high-level defenseman in Mikhail Sergachev. That’s not an easy player to be compared to — even beyond Sergachev playing a role on repeat Stanley Cup Champion temas.

  • Naturally, there’s the pressure that comes with being a prominent player in a tough market like Montreal. Drouin, 26, is a Quebec native. That comes with a lot of pressure, including early hopes that he might pan out as a center.

  • At six years with a $5.5M cap hit, Drouin’s contract is large enough to stack on another layer of anxiety and pressure.

  • Drouin also ranked among several notable Canadiens exposed to the Kraken expansion draft.

That’s already a lot to deal with, and that’s before you get into the franchise’s development philosophies. (Jesperi Kotkaniemi hinted at certain flaws in that system.)

Perhaps more immediate struggles truly caused Drouin to hit that wall.

[Take a look at where the Canadiens stand in this Atlantic Division review]

During the month of April, he was limited to two points (both assists) in 12 games. He wasn’t getting the bounces at all in 2020-21, scoring two goals (23 points in 44 games) on a career-low 2.6 shooting percentage.

As Drouin said, he’s been dealing with anxiety issues for years. Maybe those recent struggles truly made him hit a wall; the up-and-down nature of his Canadiens years could also translate to some painful lows.

Hopefully, by taking this time off, Drouin gained renewed perspective. A leave of absence won’t remove all pressure, especially in a performance-oriented field like hockey. He’s going to want to make up for lost time, and only has two years remaining on his current contract.

But, if this time off allowed Drouin to place less importance on every positive and negative bounce, that would be positive. It would be an inspiring, Masterton-worthy story if Drouin came back better than ever in 2021-22. He certainly has the physical gifts to be a difference-maker.

Yet, a healthy and happy Drouin would be more than good enough, even if the results don’t show on the ice.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Anxiety, insomnia prompted Drouin’s leave of absence from Canadiens originally appeared on NBCSports.com