Pierre-Luc Dubois played 3:55 in the first period of Thursday’s game versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Beyond that, he didn’t again see the ice in the second period or the third. Seemingly content to sit on the bench for the remainder of the game, all eyes are on the Columbus Blue Jackets now as Dubois has become the one thing he said he wouldn’t when it was learned he wanted out — a major distraction.
There were a lot of insiders and media keeping an eye on what was going on as the Blue Jackets tried to steal one from the defending Stanley Cup Champions without their top line center. Dubois came out for only a handful of shifts, showed he wasn’t engaged and never saw the ice again. It was immediately clear the bigger story wasn’t whether or not the Jackets were going to win or lose, but what each side would say.
It’s difficult not to become a problem when everyone knows you want to leave. When you have a coach like John Tortorella — who isn’t afraid to do what he wants despite the optics or say the first thing that comes to his mind — it’s virtually impossible. In a previous game when Tortorella was asked about giving limited ice time to players, he said, “You’ll know when I’m benching someone.” It seemed glaringly obvious he was sending a loud and clear message with Dubois on Thursday.
Tortorella didn’t say much after game. At least, he didn’t want to. His first response when asked the inevitable questions that were sure to come was, “I’m not going to have a discussion about it with you guys.” When a follow up question was asked, he offered a little more. “It’s up to the player to show me. If you play the proper way, you’re going to get out there,” he said. He added, “I’ve coached Luc like this for a couple of years, as far as trying to get him to get some growth in his game and growth as a pro.”
Meanwhile, Dubois declined to comment.
There’s No Way Around This Now
At this point, even if Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen wants to take his time in a Dubois trade, should this become ugly — which it appears it has — waiting to make a move is a whole lot easier said than done.
Not only will the Blue Jackets not getting anything out of Dubois if he’s giving half the effort, but if the coach isn’t playing him, the team gets absolutely nothing. In the meantime, all 20 teams that are rumored to be interested are watching.
If any of these teams decide that Dubois is the type of player who will just phone it in when he’s not getting what he wants, the options for a deal go down. Surely, not all teams will walk away, but some will. They’ll choose to stay as far away from this drama as possible, especially as the hockey world watches it unfold.
Something’s Got To Give
The question now will be who gets the support of the GM. We assume the plan is to trade Dubois and try to get the best deal for him. But, as Tortorella continues to exacerbate the problem and other teams know that the Blue Jackets are inching close to a ‘trade now’ situation, does Torts get the same leash he had before he started making a side show out of everything?
Yes, it takes two to tango and Dubois is obviously not free of fault here. It seemed pretty evident he wasn’t giving it his all. That said, whatever side you fall on here, it’s crystal clear this thing is now officially a mess.
His teammates are trying to stay neutral, with captain Nick Foligno saying, “We’ve had our talks with Luc. He’s one of us until we’re told otherwise. We said that out loud and that’s the way it is. We don’t treat him any differently.”
Mr. Foligno, consider that message sent.
Sometimes, things get said and they’re just not out loud. The fact that Dubois sat and watched the rest of the game from the bench says all anyone will need to. He’s really not a part of this Blue Jackets team any more.
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