Tortorella’s benching of Dubois overshadows Blue Jackets’ OT loss to Lightning

[UPDATE: Dubois has been dealt to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine.]

By design, the Blue Jackets don’t always play the most … glamorous style of hockey. With John Tortorella, that’s basically the point. Yet, on Thursday, it was tougher to pay attention to what was happening on the ice between the Blue Jackets and Lightning because of Tortorella’s benching of Pierre-Luc Dubois.

It’s a shame, as there was some good hockey between the Blue Jackets and Lightning, with Tampa Bay winning 3-2 in OT. But it sure feels like nights like these turn a situation from brewing to almost inevitable.

Dubois trade rumors will only grow after benching by Tortorella

The Blue Jackets managed to gain a “charity point” against the defending champion (and growing rival) Lightning, but you can bet most of Thursday’s questions will revolve around Tortorella benching Pierre-Luc Dubois. Torts won’t like it, yet after denying benching players already this season, should he really be surprised after he glued Dubois to his seat?

Through the first period, Dubois logged five shifts, then saw no ice time during the second.

The Dubois benching extended through the third and OT, too. At the moment, it doesn’t sound like this was injury-related. Dubois could be seen on the bench conversing with teammates. There’s not much room for nuance here; Dubois received the benching treatment.

Pierre-Luc Dubois benching ice time
via NHL time on ice reports

Yikes. Ultimately, Dubois played just 3:55 of a game that went to overtime, and the Blue Jackets lost; if that’s not a benching, then what is?

[From earlier on Thursday: which teams make sense for a possible Dubois trade?]

While this benching only amplifies the beef (should we even call it perceived at this point?) between Dubois and Tortorella, there will be some who criticize the player. That’s fine; some believe that PLD isn’t playing at his usual level.

Questionable tactics

But Torts doesn’t really seem to be helping matters.

If Tortorella was wavering on benching Dubois from the beginning, then why not make him a healthy scratch? By sitting a player — particularly your top center — for virtually an entire game, you’re shortchanging your own team.

It’s not as though the Blue Jackets played a whole lot better due to some sort of motivational factor of “If that can happen to him, it can happen to me.” Columbus came out firing with this nice pass from Max Domi to Oliver Bjorkstrand, who buried a 1-0 goal less than 30 seconds in.

If anything, the Blue Jackets declined as the game went on.

During the first period, the two teams matched efforts with 10 shots on goal apiece. From there, the Lightning generated a 27-15 SOG advantage. Hmm.

In the end, Victor Hedman found Brayden Point for the overtime-winner. And we’ll await what could be a terse Tortorella press conference.

Place your bets: will Tortorella’s press conference about the benching and loss go longer than Dubois’ 3:55 of ice time?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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