It’s been a tumultuous start to the 2020-21 campaign for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A season removed from playing out the year with a few marquee names on the roster eyeing a move out of town, the Blue Jackets found themselves in a similar position in 2021, with No. 1 centre Pierre-Luc Dubois requesting a trade in the off-season.
He eventually got his wish, the club moving Dubois to Winnipeg in a blockbuster that landed star winger Patrik Laine and Columbus native Jack Roslovic.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella spoke with Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson about the tumult that preceded the move in a wide-ranging interview set to air Wednesday on Sportsnet.
“Have Luc and I had conflict? Goddamn right we’ve had conflict,” Tortorella said of his relationship with Dubois prior to the trade. “If someone doesn’t want to be here, that’s a hard thing for me to stomach, quite honestly.”
Dubois spent three seasons in Columbus after the club tabbed him with the third-overall pick in 2016, breaking out with a 27-goal, 61-point effort in 2018-19 before leading the club in scoring last season.
Reports first surfaced of Dubois’ trade request in late December, after the centreman signed a two-year bridge deal with Columbus.
“I’ll tell you this, I do think the athletes [today], it’s a softer athlete. And the benching,” Tortorella said of Dubois’ final game with the club, in which a lackadaisical shift from the young pivot wound up being his last with the club, “I’d do it again.”
Much speculation has surrounded the relationship between Dubois and Tortorella, a coach who’s been known to challenge his players publicly and behind closed doors. While some have wondered if it’s the bench boss’ approach that’s led to the exodus of stars from Columbus in recent years — namely Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky the off-season before last — Tortorella said few understand the full story.
“A lot of people have some perceptions of me that don’t have a clue who I am.”
Watch the full interview with Tortorella Wednesday on Sportsnet in the pre-game show before the Vancouver Canucks take on the Ottawa Senators on Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey.