NHL Rumors: Blue Jackets, Penguins, Blackhawks, Canucks, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, more news is coming to light regarding John Tortorella’s decision to bench Patrik Laine. If this story is accurate, it’s not going to look good on the player. Meanwhile, what are the next steps for the Pittsburgh Penguins with Ron Hextall and Brian Burke running the team? Is there real trouble brewing internally with the Vancouver Canucks? Finally, are the Chicago Blackhawks withholding information regarding the health of Jonathan Toews?

Laine Benched for Disrespecting Assistant Coach

As per a report by The Columbus Dispatch, and one that is being followed by Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the reason Laine was benched on Monday was because of an issue between himself and an assistant coach. The report is alleging that Laine was verbally disrespectful.

Patrik Laine Jets
Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets, Mar. 10, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The publication writes:

“Many observers pointed to a couple of blown defensive coverages, including one on Laine’s final shift in the second period that led to a game-tying goal. But The Dispatch has learned that wasn’t the reason the 22-year-old left wing sat out the final 6:19 of that period and the entire third.

An NHL source said Laine “mouthed off” to one of the Blue Jackets’ assistant coaches, and another source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that account.

source – ‘John Tortorella benched Patrik Laine for off-ice interaction with assistant coach’ – Brian Hedger – The Columbus Dispatch- 02/09/2021

It is not being reported what was said or who exactly Laine said it to, but whatever it was, it was enough that Tortorella felt it important to send an immediate message in a tie game. This could explain why Tortorella said what he did about benching players when pressed about his decision to sit Laine. At the time, the coach explained, “It’s what I feel I need to do.” He added:

“The last thing I want to do is bench a player. But … we’re just disjointed in all areas – quite honestly, on and off the ice. 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.”

Related: Prospects News & Rumors: Zegras, Krebs & Harley

Penguins Still in Win-Now Mode

With the new hires in Pittsburgh, Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen wonders if Hextall (new GM) and Burke (new President of Hockey Operations) will be patient in building a team or be aggressive with their moves. Based upon the early comments from both men, it sounds like the Penguins are still in win-now mode and they are not going to break everything down and move some of the top players.

Hextall spoke about not being able to answer how good the team will be this season or what scenarios will come their way, but it’s not in his plans to trade Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang. “We want to be as good as we can be right now with three of the top players in the world,” Hextall said. As for Burke, he asked the media during his avail if they recalled he missed out on Crosby in the draft lottery? He said, “Well now I’ve got Sidney Crosby!” It doesn’t sound like Burke is too eager to trade him.

TSN’s Darren Dreger recently discussed the likelihood that Crosby and Malkin might want to finish their careers elsewhere if the team decides to tear things down and rebuild. Dreger believes any chances of that happening will depend upon the conversations that two star players have with the new executives.

Friedman Says the Canucks are ‘Sideways’

During his recent 31 Thoughts article, Elliotte Friedman described the Canucks as a team that has “something missing.” He cited Braden Holtby openly staring down teammates as an indication of how sideways everything’s gone. He notes that there seems to be no cohesion/camaraderie and he wonders if it all started with the decision not to extend head coach Travis Green right away.

Quinn Hughes recently pointed out that lot of good players had left the team and Friedman wonders if the team believes Green will eventually be leaving too and that could be where their issues stem from.

Blackhawks Insist They Aren’t Hiding Anything

With chatter and unfounded rumors making their way around social media regarding Toews’ possible health conditions, the Blackhawks insist they aren’t hiding anything and have been upfront and transparent about their captain’s status. GM Stan Bowman spoke with the media Sunday and said he didn’t have any further news to provide.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“I don’t have any update on Jonathan,” Bowman said. “And when I say this, I mean it: It’s not like we have additional information that we’re holding back. All we know is he’s not ready to play right now.” He added:

“Until that happens, we’re just giving him the time and the space needed. We’re not really trying to hound him. He knows that we’re ready to embrace him when he’s feeling up to it, and until that happens, we’re going to let him work through things on his own timeline.”

source – ‘Blackhawks not ‘holding back’ additional info about Jonathan Toews’ – Ben Pope – Chicago Sun Times – 02/09/2021

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