Perhaps it’s a rule of the universe. You can only go so long without some drama (and, often, a crushing loss) involving John Tortorella, the Blue Jackets, and a forward like Patrik Laine.
Sure, things were bad heading into Thursday … but by Blue Jackets/Torts terms, you might say they were merely generically bad.
Sure, Patrik Laine’s confidence seemed shot, what with a wayward two-way game, and zero points in seven straight games. And, with each week, the Blue Jackets’ playoff hopes look slimmer.
#CBJ Patrik Laine has gone seven games without a point, matching a career high. Asked where his confidence is right now:
“Probably closer to zero."
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) March 11, 2021
But at least the questions probably felt relatively simple and straightforward. At least, they were about as run-of-the-mill as they can get for a Torts team that was losing.
Thursday brought a little spice to that milquetoast brand of failure, though.
Blown lead, Laine benching in Blue Jackets’ OT loss to Panthers
For most of Thursday’s game against the Panthers, things probably seemed like they were on the upswing for Laine and the Blue Jackets. At least relatively speaking.
Laine assisted on Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s second goal of the night to break that slump, and give the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead over the Panthers in the second period.
Then, 3:23 into the third, Patrik Laine scored in a way that Tortorella and the Blue Jackets envisioned: a power-play goal. About a minute later, another forward practically built to torment Torts made it 4-1, as Max Domi fattened that lead.
Unfortunately, that 4-1 lead wouldn’t hold. About six-and-a-half minutes into the third period, Ryan Lomberg began a Panthers rally. Eventually, the Panthers would beat the Blue Jackets in overtime.
Domi and Laine both made some key mistakes, leading to another Laine benching by Tortorella since the winger landed with the Blue Jackets. For a coach who doesn’t want to bench a player, Torts sure does bench players in prominent situations.
#CBJ Patrik Laine did not play in the final 6:53 of regulation and did not take the ice for 3-on-3 overtime.
“I thought I was playing good, but I guess I thought wrong."
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) March 12, 2021
Would a second chance work better than a benching?
That “I guess I thought wrong” vibe might be where this is most uncomfortable. Not just for Laine, but for Blue Jackets management, as they assess Torts.
Rather than benching a player every time, maybe there should be opportunities for redemption? We’ve seen talented players get reprimanded, then score big goals time and time again. Sometimes in sports, some mercy can lead to great achievements.
Instead, Laine was benched, and stayed on the bench. Pierre-Luc Dubois also experienced that same stapling on his way out. In at least two cases, Laine and Dubois watched the Blue Jackets lose in overtime. For a struggling team like the Blue Jackets, every point counts.
For what it’s worth, Torts will take the point.
“We’ll be OK. We’ve got to keep growing,” Tortorella said, via NHL.com’s Craig Merz. “Although we don’t get a full result tonight, we get a point. We’ll take the point. We’ve got a lot of good things going on. We’ve got to focus on that.”
That might not be the word most think of when they describe how things are going for the Blue Jackets, Laine, and Tortorella. Other options: wallowing, sinking, decaying.
If we all look at this in hindsight as “No pain, no gain,” then Columbus really needs to speed things up. They’re running out of time.