Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Columbus Blue Jackets are reaching the point of no return.
Dubois, who requested a trade shortly after signing a two-year bridge extension worth $10 million prior to the 2021 season, was benched after the first period of Thursday’s overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and it appears the relationship between both parties is permanently fractured.
The 22-year-old played just 3:55 on five shifts and after the game, Tortorella appeared to take shots at Dubois during his post-game media availability, noting that it’s his responsibility to play significantly better in order to earn more ice time.
Tortorella was particularly upset about Dubois’s lack of effort on his final shift, as seen in the clip above.
“I will not allow our standard of play and our culture and how we go about our business here to change,” Tortorella said during his media availability on Friday. “We've got to keep on growing because that is how we have survived in this league in trying to be a better team in this league.”
Tortorella also said Dubois’s trade request didn’t factor into his benching — and it’s fair to say he’s within his rights to bench him, but it does appear to be especially dubious logic to sit arguably your best forward in a tight game against the defending champs.
"I've coached Luc like this for a couple years, as far as trying to get him to get some growth in his game and growth as a pro," Tortorella said. "Nothing changes here. ... I think you're asking the wrong guy. I'm just a coach trying to make it work with a hockey club, trying to find a way to win games. The person that you keep talking to me about, you should ask him."
To his credit, Dubois took full ownership of his recent play when meeting with the media on Friday.
Selected third overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, Dubois has developed into one of the core pillars of the Blue Jackets franchise and was on the precipice of stardom last summer, frustrating Auston Matthews and John Tavares for large stretches of the team’s qualifying round triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Players of Dubois’s calibre and age rarely are made available on the trade market, so the Blue Jackets are still expected to have plenty of suitors for him. If this is how his tenure ends with the Blue Jackets, it’s only fitting that the bombastic, ill-tempered Tortorella went scorched earth as his preferred method of conflict resolution.
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