It has been two weeks to the day since the biggest trade of the season took place: Pierre-Luc Dubois (and a 3rd round 2022 selection) was acquired by the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Heck, it was only a week ago that Laine was activated from the injured reserve. Yet today, there is plenty of chatter about Laine’s inactivity during the 3rd period of Monday evening’s game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ironically enough, it was Roslovic that scored a spectacular game winning goal as his former and current teammate sat watching. Blue Jackets’ Head Coach John Tortorella made an early statement as Laine saw very little ice time in the second and did not see a shift during the third of last night’s 3-2 win.
Expected Laine and Tortorella Tension?
No one should be surprised by Tortorella’s actions. If anything, it was likely a matter of when and not if he was going to bench his new addition. Some folks might be surprised that it happened this quickly, but the sooner a statement was made, the easier it should be to correct… Right?
Columbus’ GM Jarmo Kekäläinen better hope it is correctable and salvageable. His prior relationship with Laine will help, but before making this trade, he had to know this was situation was unavoidable with two strong personalities on each side.
After all, it was likely the Laine camp and their brutally honest personalities eventually became part of the issue in Winnipeg. The Jets could have easily catered to the young star and then really pushed to re-sign him at the end of this season when he was set to become an RFA. On the other hand, they’d tried that with Laine’s last contract in 2019 and it didn’t seem to work. In an effort to avoid more tension and delay, he was dealt to Columbus.
Laine’s Extension Remains a Priority
Extending Laine must be a huge priority for Kekäläinen in Columbus, but this early distraction will not help that cause if it is not handled properly. Perhaps that is why the Finnish sniper was unavailable for comment after last night’s win.
One cannot blame Tortorella in this case. He is sticking to what has made him successful – details. Specifically, the details on the defensive side of the puck which is the Jackets’ strongest area of the ice and a big part of the team’s overall identity.
Letting Laine slide on the details would send the wrong message for players who have bought into the system for years now. It is about accountability. That is what happens on successful teams. Everyone is accountable and, in my opinion, that is the way it should be.
Cam Atkinson said of the way Tortorella coaches and benches players with no regard for who they are or what their position:
“Torts expects us to play as hard as we can. It doesn’t matter who you are and I think everyone knows that. If you’re not giving 100% and looking like you’re trying, he’s going to sit you. It’s no secret, that goes for everybody, including myself.”
At the same time, there is now a risk that a wedge will start to grow between Laine and Tortorella. That could spell disaster for the team in the short-term, but also when it comes time to negotiate Laine’s next contract.
Again, Kekäläinen had to know this was inevitable. As such, he would have likely created a mitigation plan to deal with this accordingly. If there is any GM in the NHL that should have the upper hand in getting through to him it should be a fellow Finn with whom he has prior history with. Question is – will that be enough?
Time will tell.
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