Kesler on why 'military-like' Tortorella is hard on his top players

Christine Simpson sits down with John Tortorella to discuss his relationship with Pierre-Luc Dubois, how excited he is to have Patrik Laine on the team and much more.

There are quite a few current and former NHL players who could empathize with Pierre-Luc Dubois during his rift with John Tortorella that ultimately led to the star centre being benched then traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.

Ryan Kesler was one of those players monitoring the developments regarding the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 36-year-old spent his final season with the Vancouver Canucks playing under Tortorella during a tumultuous 2013-14 campaign.

“What (the Dubois situation) made me think about is how hard he is on his top players and if you’re a top player and you don’t like it and it obviously doesn’t rub you right then you don’t want to play for him,” the one-time Selke Trophy winner and Olympic silver medallist said Tuesday during an appearance on Good Show.

Kesler, who last suited up for an NHL game in 2019 and is currently on the Anaheim Ducks’ long-term injured reserve list, said there are clear positives to Tortorella’s coaching style even though it isn’t ideal for everyone.

“It shows the group that you’re holding everybody accountable, not just the bottom six or the whipping boys of the team,” Kesler explained. “You’re holding your star player accountable to play right every single shift and if you look at the shift right before he got benched, I can tell you exactly why he got benched.”

Kesler described Tortorella as “very military-like” and that he respected him for it, adding the two-time Jack Adams Award winner also has an ability to give “a pre-game speech that makes you want to run through a wall.”

“He runs a tight ship and that’s how he gets the most out of his players and if you don’t like his style of play then you definitely don’t want to play there and I think that’s why Dubois asked for a trade. … I have a love-hate (relationship) with him. I hated that he was hard on me but I loved that he held me accountable,” Kesler said.

That would fall in line with what Tortorella recently told Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson in an interview you can watch at the top of the page.

“I don’t believe in trying to change someone’s mind. My relationship with Luc is just like anybody else’s on this team,” Tortorella said. “My job is I’m going to push you, I’m going to hold you accountable. There is a certain standard that we want here and that we all live by. If someone doesn’t want to be here then that’s a hard thing for me to stomach quite honestly. (Jeff Carter) left, (Artemi Panarin) left, (Sergei Bobrovsky) left, and my back gets up a little bit.”

The Blue Jackets have gone 3-1-1 since the trade. Roslovic has one assist in three games with Columbus while Laine is expected to make his Blue Jackets debut Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

Kesler added with a laugh: “I’m a coach now. I coach my 10-year-old and I run the same tight ship that he runs with Columbus.”

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