As fans, media and practically everyone else watches what’s unfolding between Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella and forward Patrik Laine, more information is coming to light about the reason the player was benched just four games into his tenure with the organization.
As per a report by Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, “Blue Jackets star forward Patrik Laine was benched during Monday’s win over Carolina because he “verbally disrespected” a member of the coaching staff.” Portzline quotes a source who passed along the news, but neither the coach himself, nor the organization would confirm the report when reached out to for comment.
As most fans know by now, Laine didn’t play most of the second period and sat all of the third on Monday night. Tuesday, media was all over trying to figure out what was going on and why things appeared to be falling off the rails already. After all, Laine just arrived in Columbus, he’s being counted on for offence, is a pending restricted free agent and speculation is everywhere that the two might be headed down a disastrous road. An an earlier radio interview Portzline suggested Tortorella might be trying to get fired, while others are wondering if this is just the coach setting his boundaries early.
The Columbus Dispatch was the first to report on the issue between one of the coaches and Laine. They write:
“Many observers pointed to a couple of blown defensive coverages, including one on Laine’s final shift in the second period that led to a game-tying goal. But The Dispatch has learned that wasn’t the reason the 22-year-old left wing sat out the final 6:19 of that period and the entire third.
An NHL source said Laine “mouthed off” to one of the Blue Jackets’ assistant coaches, and another source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that account.
The article didn’t confirm what Laine said, or whom he said it to, but it was apparently enough to warrant the player being benched, and during a tie game.
After the game, Tortorella refused to provide details on his decision to sit the winger. He said, “That’s gonna stay in-house.” He added, “I know you guys are going to try to work me on that. It wasn’t because of the missed assignment. There’s a number of things that come into play with that. That will stay in the locker room.” The incident between the assistant coach and the player could explain Tortorella’s reasoning for wanting to keep things private.
This Potentially Changes the Player-to-Coach Dynamic
While reactions were mixed on what Tortorella did in sitting Laine, it’s hard to imagine many people will fault him for not letting a player get away with disrespecting a member of his coaching staff. The perception that Laine felt he was able to trash-talk a coach (if that’s what he did) when the two were off the ice will not look good on the sniper.
All that said, the Blue Jackets believe they can put all this behind them. Jack Roslovic — who was acquired at the same time as Laine and in the same trade — said, “He’s a tough kid. He’s gonna bounce back hard and I think they’ll squash whatever they have (that’s an issue) and it’ll be behind us.”
We’ll see if anyone from the organization comments on the story now that it’s out there.
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