Things have been rumored to be rocky between Columbus’s star forward Ryan Johansen and new coach John Tortorella. He had been benched shortly after Tortorella’s arrival and was again benched for the entire third period of Tuesday’s loss to Dallas.
Now, it sounds like the situation is approaching its apex. Johansen could be a healthy scratch on Thursday, reports TSN’S Darren Dreger.
He references Aaron Portzline’s suggestion in the Columbus Post Dispatch that this may happen. Portzline described Johansen’s first two periods before getting benched by saying, “I’ve seen suburbanites skate harder on the Columbus Zoo’s holiday pond.”
Tortorella didn’t do anything to ease concern that the two are on the outs after the game. “That was the coach’s decision,” Tortorella said after the game when asked about the benching. “No explanation. I just didn’t play him.”
Johansen’s first benching was immediately followed by him missing a couple of games for an illness that wasn’t ever addressed publicly by the time.
Further adding fuel to this fire is that Johansen may be getting shopped more aggressively, according to reports. This would be a shift from earlier in the season when he was considered to be “softly in play”. The team may be making calls now instead of just taking them.
Through 31 games, Johansen is on pace for just 16 goals, a significant step down from last season’s 26 and the 33 he put up the year before that. There has certainly been less scoring to go around in Columbus, but the team has set him up to succeed, trading to acquire top talent for his wings.
It’s an ugly situation where a team wants to move their top center, while simultaneously depreciating his value through rough contract negotiations, Tortorella calling him out of shape and thinking so little of his effort level that they could make him a healthy scratch.
RELATED: Can McElhinney Make MAgic?
Dustin Nelson is the News Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s a contributor to Hockey Prospectus, Hockey Wilderness, and writes a column for Rotowire. He’s also written for Gone Puck Wild, Wild Xtra, InDigest, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Tiny Mix Tapes, Prefix Magazine & other publications. Have a tip? Email him at dlukenelson[at]gmail[dot]com.