Every season, there seems to be at least one NHL team who can’t seem to go more than a few days without problems. Be it injuries, playing well below expectations, or off-ice issues, there’s just always one team who just has one headache after another. This year, that team is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Given they’re a team that typically likes to keep things quiet, it’s particularly unfortunate that nearly every problem has been off-ice. From star player benchings to one of the wackiest offside calls I’ve ever seen, it’s been a crazy season so far in Columbus. Without further ado, let’s dig in.
Pierre-Luc Dubois Requests a Trade
The drama in Columbus began even before the puck dropped on the season. Shortly before signing a two-year, $10 million deal ($5 million AAV), it came out that Pierre-Luc Dubois has requested a trade out of Columbus. At the time, the reasons for that were unclear. But, speculation was rampant that it had something to do with his relationship with head coach John Tortorella. Both sides have since denied that rumor, but they would never have publicly confirmed it for PR reasons. So, I’m not sure we can believe that. I don’t think it was the sole reason, but it was clear they didn’t particularly care for each other. So, it certainly seems likely that it was a factor. Another reason for the request was reported that Dubois wanted a bigger stage, which was also the reason Artemi Panarin left in the summer of 2019.
Regardless of the reason, Dubois made it clear he didn’t see a long-term future with the team. But, he still signed a deal, which makes sense because he wanted to play, even if it had to be in Columbus for a bit. It also made him more tradeable, especially since it was very reasonable.
Dubois Plays Uninspired Hockey, Promptly Gets Benched
As much as it seemed Dubois just wanted to play regardless of where it was, he certainly made it clear he would much rather it not be in Columbus by the way he started the season. He played some truly uninspired and downright terrible at times hockey. Part of me thinks that’s also a reason he signed the deal because he probably knew the Blue Jackets wouldn’t trade him unless they had to. But, that’s just my thoughts, I have no inside knowledge and I never saw anyone who does say it. So, take it for a grain of salt.
Moving on, as a result of his play, Dubois saw what appeared to be (although Tortorella denied it) a partial benching in his third game of the season. Things only got worse from there. Two games later, Dubois only played 3:55 before being benched (and this time Tortorella admitted it) after a truly terrible and frankly a bit embarrassing shift, which you can see below.
Here's an iso of Pierre-Luc Dubois' final shift for the Blue Jackets tonight. The center saw 3:55 of ice time for the night and did not take a shift after the first period.#CBJ
— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 22, 2021
As badly as he wanted out of Columbus, I can’t say I blame him for doing something like that. It was a bad look, but it succeeded in forcing the Blue Jackets’ hand, and he was traded just two days later. So, it did work out for him.
Next up, we have The Trade. You know, the blockbuster trade that saw three disgruntled players (Dubois, Patrik Laine, and Jack Roslovic) switch locations. Fun fact: Laine and Dubois were the second and third picks in the 2015 draft, respectively. So, it adds more humor to this trade because had each team just picked the other guy, all this drama could’ve been avoided. Regardless, trades of this magnitude rarely happen in today’s NHL, so it had everybody talking. But, it wasn’t necessarily for the best reasons.
This trade is absolutely hilarious to a lot of people, myself included. For starters, both Dubois and Laine wanted out at least partially because they wanted a bigger stage. They did not get that. Instead, they went to Canadian Columbus and American Winnipeg, respectively. So, that was a major fail on their parts. But, it still wasn’t the funniest thing about this trade.
Patrik Laine is notorious for not playing defense. He’s an elite goal scorer who truly couldn’t care less about the defensive part of the game. It appeared to create some friction between him and Jets head coach Paul Maurice. That could be part of the reason Laine wanted out too, but I’ve never seen anything specific to confirm that, so take it with a grain of salt. But anyway, John Tortorella is absolutely not the coach you want to play for it you only want to score goals. He is perhaps the hardest coach to play for in the league. He demands that his players do whatever it takes to not keep the puck out of the net and win games. Laine likes to win, but he puts as little effort into defense as he can possibly get away with. So, Tortorella is certainly not the right coach for him.
An Offside Challenge For the Ages
Taking a brief break from the off-ice drama, the next problem the Blue Jackets encountered was on the ice. During their February 7th game against the Hurricanes, Vincent Trochek scored a goal to give the Canes a 4-3 lead. However, the Blue Jackets quickly challenged the goal, claiming that he was offside. This would turn out to be true. However, a microphone mishap led to the Blue Jackets losing the challenge.
A new video coordinator in Columbus was the cause of all this. His job is to connect the on-ice officials with the NHL officials in the situation room in Toronto. He did that. But, shortly after the first clip was sent to the on-ice officials, which didn’t definitively show that Trochek was offside, they heard a voice on the line say “he’s onside. That’s a good goal.” He then repeated it, and since the only people on the line are normally those in the situation room (who ultimately have the final say in challenge situations), the linesman just assumed it was them. So, they took the headsets off and stepped away to make the call. But, it was not the situation room officials that said that. It was the video coordinator, who must’ve accidentally left his mic on.
How Did This Happen?
In a normal season, this mistake would’ve been corrected before the call was made. I’m sure it’s happened before. Once the linesmen take the headsets off, the video coordinator usually throws it right back on. So, if the situation room was yelling that there was a mistake, which they were, that person would’ve heard it and called the linesmen back before any damage could be done. But, one of the protocols put in place by the NHL is that immediately after use, those headsets must be sanitized. So, that’s what they did, and it left the situation room officials screaming into the void while the linesmen made the call.
The linesmen were informed of the mistake during intermission, and they immediately went to talk to both teams to explain. They also wiped the rest of the Blue Jackets’ delay of game penalty off the board to try and make up for it. But, they let the goal stand because, per Rule 37.2 of the NHL rulebook, no goal can be overturned due to video review once the puck has been dropped again. So, the goal stood, and Carolina ultimately won by one goal (6-5), which lends a lot of extra weight to the missed call. Had it not happened, would the Hurricanes have won? I’m not so sure of that, and at the very least I think it would’ve gone to OT. But, what’s done is done, and the NHL is reportedly working on ensuring that it never happens again.
Laine Benched in His Third Game
We have finally arrived at the most recent incident in Columbus this season (as of 2/10/21). In just his third game for the Blue Jackets (February 8th vs Carolina), Laine found himself benched by Tortorella (who would later claim that the last thing he wants to do is bench a player, which is hilarious because he does it more than any other coach in the league). This happened right after Laine egregiously missed an assignment that led to a Carolina goal. Understandably, that led many to conclude that that was the reason.
But, Tortorella would reveal after the game that it was not, and the real reason would “stay in the room.” However, that didn’t happen. It was later leaked that Laine “mouthed off” to an assistant coach during the morning skate. So, I assume that was the main reason. But, the missed assignment does seem to be the catalyst for it. If it was purely disciplinary because he violated Tortorell’s “code,” which you just don’t do, then Laine wouldn’t have played at all that game.
No matter what happened though, it’s not a good look to bench your star player so quickly. I get it, but it only confirmed what everybody knew would happen. Tortorella and Laine are just not a good combination. I didn’t think there would be an issue quite this early though (although I also didn’t think it’d take much longer). Even though the team and Laine (who even said he deserved to be benched) say they’ve moved on, this just signifies the start of what is likely to be a very tumultuous relationship. I don’t expect that Laine will re-sign in Columbus in the offseason, but that’s another article for another time.
All in All, It Has Been a Chaotic Season for Columbus
As you can clearly see, this season has been anything but normal for the Blue Jackets. They’re only a quarter of the way through it but have already had more than a season’s worth of drama. Regardless, they’ve still managed to keep their heads above water and stay in the playoff hunt. But, they’re also played several more games than most teams in their division. So, hopefully for them they don’t have many more issues. They need everything to calm down so they can just focus on playing hockey. As a non-CBJ fan, it’s been fairly entertaining watching this though. There is usually not a lot of drama in the NHL that you have to take whatever you can get. So I don’t know about you, but I’ll be staying tuned to see what happens next!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com.
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