Jackets GM Kekalainen: ‘I really don’t care’ if Johansen was unhappy in AHL

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Yesterday, we passed along word that Ryan Johansen — Columbus’ first-round pick (fourth overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — was benched for a playoff game while with AHL Springfield.

Shortly after, Jarmo Kekalainen addressed the issue and gave insight on how he and the organization are going to handle player accountability moving forward.

“I think this is probably going to be a disappointment [to him], to say the least, maybe even a bit embarrassing,” the Jackets GM told the Columbus Dispatch. “Hopefully, he takes it the right way, gets to work this summer and shows us in the fall that he has taken it to heart and he’s ready to earn a spot on the [Blue Jackets].”

Earn a spot. Interesting word choice, considering Johansen played 40 of 48 games this year and 67 in his rookie campaign.

Kekalainen also addressed the possibility that Johansen might’ve been unhappy about his assignment to AHL Springfield, especially after playing almost the entire season with the Jackets and participating in a spirited playoff push.

“I don’t have any indication that he’d be unhappy,” Kekalainen said. “I really don’t care if he was unhappy.”

Okay then!

Johansen had just one assist and went an ugly minus-8 in the first three games of Springfield’s playoff series, and was scratched after head coach Brad Larsen ran it by Kekalainen and Jackets head coach Todd Richards.

It’s also not the first time Johansen’s received this sort of “punishment” from the organization — in early February, he was demoted to Springfield after Richards said his game went downhill.

There are two ways to look at this, really. The first is that it’s an example of how Columbus is going to operate under the new regime of Kekalainen and John Davidson — players are going to be held to a higher standard than ever before.

But there’s another angle to this, and it’s the organization’s history with handling young prospects. Derick Brassard’s time in Columbus was littered with “disciplinary” moments (see here and here and here) before he was jettisoned to New York in the Marian Gaborik trade.

There was also the Nikita Filatov disaster, though that was hardly all on the Jackets.

It’ll be interesting to see how Johansen reacts not just to this latest setback, but the new organizational mandate overall.

And, how the rest of Columbus’ young players will react as well.