Normally milquetoast franchise navigating more drama than usual this season
Aside from a handful of Penguins fans who, based on a couple recent playoff series, think that Brandon Dubinsky, ex-Jacket Scott Hartnell and Boone Jenner are dirty, stinking cheaters who just want to hurt their players instead of playing hockey, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been about as milquetoast a franchise throughout its history as you'd expect from a stereotypical Midwestern city. But this season has been fraught with drama from the outset for the CBJ.
Let's recap:Restricted free agent Josh Anderson missed all of training camp, holding out as a negotiating ploy for a better contract. Speculation was that his agent was attempting to reset the bar for RFA deals, but it was news throughout camp. It was November before Head Coach John Tortorella stopped mentioning, often unprompted, Anderson's holdout. Tortorella stripped the Assistant Captain designation from Dubinsky in late October, “to take some pressure off him and let him concentrate on his game,” the coach said in a regular press scrum. It had nothing to do with Dubinsky missing practice, but was intended to help the player and team, and was “not temporary,” Tortorella said. The player to whom Tortorella gave the ‘A' after removing it from Dubinsky's sweater was defenseman Jack Johnson. Just a couple weeks ago, sports website the Athletic reported that Johnson had requested a trade. (See: Alive's Jan. 18 Straight Jackets column.) Right before the All-Star break, in Las Vegas for a game against the upstart expansion Golden Knights, Dubinsky left the team for undisclosed reasons. Aaron Portzline from the Athletic initially reported it was for disciplinary reasons, but this was later refuted by team officials and Dubinsky's agent in other published reports, including in the Columbus Dispatch, that said it was a medical issue and couldn't be discussed for privacy reasons. Speculation was brief but rampant, only moderately subsiding when the player rejoined the team following the break. “We have stuff that is private to us and we want to keep that way. So, that's just the way it's going to be,” Dubinsky told media members. Whether he was struggling to recover from a couple injuries he's dealt with this season, a new medical issue or some other personal matter, here's hoping the best for Dubinsky, on a personal level and for the team, which can only benefit from his presence in the locker room and the lineup. There was a bit of fuss, mostly from Minnesota Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, about defenseman Seth Jones playing the first game following the All-Star break (this past Tuesday's home game against the Wild). Jones was named to the team, but did not attend due to illness. (Zach Werenski took his place for the All-Star weekend.) The NHL has a rule that players selected to the All-Star team who skip the weekend cannot play the first game after the break, a deterrent meant to discourage players from faking injury or illness in order to take the weekend off instead of attending All-Star festivities. But additional reporting by the Athletic suggested the NHL told Jones to skip the game, lest his flu spread league-wide. Whether this was the league bending its own rules or a reasonable decision — can you ask a player to do something and then suspend him for it? — depends mostly on the team for which you root.