How long can the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to withstand the drama that’s going on with John Tortorella and his players this season?
It would have been perhaps an unthinkable question prior to this season’s troubles with Pierre-Luc Dubois and now Patrik Laine in Columbus, as the Blue Jackets have consistently been a team that’s met or exceeded their potential in the past. And GM Jarmo Kekalainen has done a marvelous job of replenishing talent on a team that lost a slew of good players when Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both left in free agency a couple of years ago.
The benching of Laine sounds like it needed to happen after a verbal altercation with one of the Blue Jackets coaches, but it continues to be a sign that Tortorella may be once again wearing down his players to a point where it’s diminishing returns. The sudden retirement of Mikko Koivu in the middle of it all raises questions as well, even if the highly respected 37-year-old veteran said it was a decision based on his diminished level of play after a 16-year-old NHL career rather than anything going on around him in Columbus.
But the truth is that everywhere Tortorella has gone players have looked to get out after a while. It was the same thing that was happening in Vancouver with the Canucks when management decided it was time for Tortorella to go rather than shipping out endless players chafing under him. Perhaps it’s getting to that time in Columbus as well despite the Blue Jackets seemingly like the perfect long-term fit for Tortorella’s intense, take-no-prisoners style.
Amazingly, one highly respected Blue Jackets writer thinks Tortorella might be trying to shoot his way out of Columbus himself.
Aaron Portzline, who covers the Blue Jackets for The Athletic, telling @TonyMarinaro on TSN 690 a minute ago that he thinks John Tortorella might want out of Columbus himself, which could be why he benched Patrik Laine last night for the entire third period.
— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) February 9, 2021
The truth might be that Tortorella is a bit of a Mike Keenan-type in the sense that his hard-driving, demanding coaching style is always going to have an expiration date wherever he goes, regardless of the other circumstances involved. Either way it’s going to be fascinating to see how things play out with a Blue Jackets team that currently sits in a playoff spot with 15 points in the Central Division this season.
Now on to the puck links:
*Holy Front Office Shakeups, Batman! FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Kingerski has the details behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big announcement that Brian Burke and Ron Hextall are taking over hockey ops with the Pens. That’s a big change and a good one for hockey with Burke back in the mix. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
*Sheng Peng offers some interesting analysis on the troubles surrounding Erik Karlsson’s struggles in San Jose. I would say that Karlsson is slowing down by combination of age and injuries, and this decline was why many teams were hesitant to shell out the kind of money for him that the Sharks did a couple of years ago. (San Jose Hockey Now)
*Interesting column on the background with Tyler Toffoli as he tears up the NHL scoring race with the Montreal Canadiens this season. The potential was always there for the chunky kid from the Ontario youth hockey ranks. (Toronto Sun)
*The Bruins coaching staff is tinkering with using five forwards on their top power play unit, an innovative change and perhaps also an admission that both Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy are going to have a hard time replacing what Torey Krug brought to the table. (Boston Hockey Now)
*A group of hockey players in Edmonton are attempting to play the longest hockey game ever. (The Score)
*A fond, temporary farewell to my boys Mike Halford and Jason Brough out in Vancouver as TSN 1040 was among several Canadian cities (Vancouver, Hamilton and Winnipeg) that shuttered their entire sports radio operation on Tuesday. The layoffs were given with zero notice and were done with about as little class and empathy as humanly possible, so for that they deserved so much better. As always both Halford and Brough took it with humor and genuine appreciation for their listeners. These two did great radio and it was always fun to be a part of their show when they asked me to be on with them. I know they will bounce back and be around the hockey scene again because they are way too talented not to be picked up somewhere.
A message from Sad Club HQ pic.twitter.com/PHpst36qF5
— Jason Brough (@SadClubCommish) February 10, 2021
*For something completely different: We are not going to be remaking the Wizard of Ox. Please stop the madness. (Variety)