Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella is making headlines again.
Yes, it hasn’t taken long, four games to be exact, for the Columbus Blue Jackets’ shiny new toy in Patrik Laine to find himself in the crosshairs of John Tortorella after being benched for a large chunk of the 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
Laine, who has three goals in four games for the Blue Jackets including a pair of goals against the Hurricanes on Sunday, was a -1 without a point in 11:14 of total ice time in Monday’s game before being benched after Brock McGinn had scored at 12:46 of the second period to make it a 2-2 game. The forward didn’t hit the ice again for the remainder of the contest.
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In total, Laine was benched for the final 26:19 of the game, with many at the time coming to the assumption that it was because of a missed assignment by the 22-year-old who was basically stood idle when McGinn knocked in a rebound for the game-tying goal.
However, John Tortorella made it clear after the game that his decision to bench Laine wasn’t because of that play, or one single play, rather a collection of things that come with learning a new system and, in particular, learning the kind of team-first philosophy that has been the bedrock of the success enjoyed by the Blue Jackets under Tortorella.
Speaking about the benching, Tortorella made it clear that he didn’t want to bench Laine, but felt that it was the right thing to do for the good of the team. “It wasn’t because of the missed assignment,” Tortorella said via nhl.com. “There’s a number of things that come into play. That will stay in the locker room. It’s what I feel I need to do. The last thing I want to do is bench a player. It’s an easy thing to bench a player. Honestly, that’s the last thing I want to do, but if I think I need to do it, then I need to do it. I think it’s part of the process of understanding our team concept, how we do things here, the discipline of being a pro. All that stuff comes into play.”
John Tortorella’s methods may not be liked, but he gets the job done for the Columbus Blue Jackets
This is just the price of doing business when you play for an old school Head Coach in the ilk of John Tortorella, and he’s unlikely going to change given that he’s always been this way coupled with the fact that his methods have brought him success wherever he’s gone, apart from his ill-fated time in Vancouver with the Canucks.
Tortorella has always used a tough-love approach and, while it doesn’t work for all, just look at how things panned out between him and center Pierre-Luc Dubois, there is no denying that Tortorella’s methods and the way he gets every single one of his players to buy into a team-first approach translates to success. I mean, despite being a small-market team and having lost an abundance of star power with the likes of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky all walking out on the team to hit Free Agency, Tortorella led this team to a sublime First Round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs, before they put up a pretty good effort against the same opponent in the First Round of last year’s postseason.
Tortorella just knows how to get the best out of his players and squeeze every ounce of potential out of them, getting them to go that extra mile and he’s created a winning culture in Columbus that has kept the Blue Jackets competitive despite not being able to keep hold of its stars. That is down to John Tortorella.
This quote from forward Cam Atkinson is also important when it comes to breaking down the events of last night. “He’ll (Patrik Laine) be the first to admit he just has to be better,” Atkinson said via nhl.com. “It’s plain and simple, and he knows it. That’s what we have to do, whether you’re a new guy, an old guy, we have to hold each other accountable. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you play, we all have to buy in.”
That is important because Atkinson has played under Tortorella for a long time and he’s been benched plenty on plenty of occasions. But Atkinson, along with other veterans like Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno have all bought in to the culture Tortorella has established and the rules and boundaries that come with that, as have stars Seth Jones and Zach Werenski who appear to have no problem with the way their Head Coach goes about his business.
I mean, look at Michael Del Zotto. The veteran defenseman had his fair share of run ins with Tortorella during their time together in New York with the Rangers, but he opted to sign a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Blue Jackets during the offseason because he knows that Tortorella has been good for his career, knows how to get the best out of him and can put him in the best possible situations to succeed.
Now, granted, I did say in another piece that maybe Tortorella should ease off on Laine just a little bit and, to be fair, the veteran Head Coach has made it clear that he will talk and listen to the player, but everything that has been built and carefully put in place in Columbus would fall apart if certain players were treated differently just because of their status. That’s not how it works in that organization and it isn’t how it works with John Tortorella.
The proof is in the pudding as they say and the proof is that the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t win a single Playoff series until John Tortorella walked into the building, and they have continued to improve and be a postseason team despite losing a dazzling array of talent in Free Agency. Are his methods a little old fashioned? Maybe, but they have and are continuing to work for him and the majority of those players in that locker room appear to love playing for John Tortorella, so it may be that Patrik Laine needs to adapt a little bit and buy into the culture that has carefully been cultivated in Columbus and, if he can, then just maybe some star power will finally stay in Ohio and both John Tortorella and Patrik Laine can get what they want out of this relationship and enjoy some sustained success together.