Columbus Blue Jackets: Is benching Patrik Laine a sign that John Tortorella wants out?

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Aug 11, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella gestures as he speaks to his players in game one of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Tampa Bay LIghtning at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Portzline covers the Columbus Blue Jackets for The Athletic and knows John Tortorella fairly well. Today, he went on TSN 690 and actually said that Torts benching Patrik Laine may mean he wants out.

Pretty shocking, but it doesn’t sound like the John Tortorella I know.

John Tortorella benches another star, this time Patrik Laine

A coach is paid to win hockey games, it’s that simple. Each coach has their own method and Torts’ may be the simplest of them all.

Just work hard.

If you don’t, you won’t play and it’s that easy. Torts would’ve benched Wayne Gretzky during his 215 point season if his play warranted.

Last night, from the late second period on, Patrik Laine was stapled to the bench. “That’s going to stay in-house,” John Tortorella said. “It’s what I feel I need to do. The last thing I want to do is bench a player.” Torts also clarified it wasn’t based on one play.

“I know you guys are going to try to work me on that,” Torts continued. “No, it wasn’t because of the missed assignment. There’s a number of things that come into play with that. That’ll stay in the locker room.”

patrik laine benched
Patrik Laine benched (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

This is who he is. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pierre-Luc Dubois or Patrik Laine. And his players know it too and defend him as well.

“Torts expects us to play as hard as we can, so it doesn’t matter who you are,” Cam Atkinson said after the game. “I think everyone knows that. If you’re not giving 100 percent and looking like you’re trying, he’s going to sit you. It’s not a secret.”

Even former player Josh Anderson now with Montreal said the same thing. When asked if he ever felt Torts’ tough love he laughingly replied, “oh yeah!”

John Tortorella is loyal to his players and his club

I covered almost John Tortorella’s entire time with the New York Rangers. He really hasn’t changed much except being slightly kinder to reporters. When he was let go, he was very disappointed and felt like he left unfinished business with the club.

During the Dubois request for a trade and subsequent deal, Torts stayed true to form. “I don’t believe in trying to change someone’s mind,” he said about Pierre-Luc Dubois. “If someone doesn’t want to be here then that’s a hard thing for me to stomach.”

You don’t say something like that if you are trying to get out of the very same place. It’s just not who he is.

Does Torts have a future in Columbus?

John Tortorella does not have a contract for next season. There is some wonder around the hockey world if Jarmo Kekalainen will extend him. Torts did make his job a bit harder when he went on a local radio show and revealed that Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out. That interview even upset Dubois’ agent, Pat Brisson.

The general belief is that the two sides mutually want to get a new contract in place for Torts to stick around, but this is the NHL and things change quickly. Jarmo wasn’t happy with how Dubois handled things and was public about it. But will benching Laine be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Only time will tell.