Getty Images

Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson hits ‘reset button’ after healthy scratch

2 Comments

The reset button has been hit and Cam Atkinson will return to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lineup Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Atkinson, who has six goals and nine points in 25 games this season, was made a healthy scratch on Saturday, three weeks after signing a seven-year, $40.25 million extension. John Tortorella’s decision to sit the forward who scored 35 goals last season wasn’t a hard one for the head coach, mainly because the player forced the issue.

“This isn’t to kick a player,” Tortorella said on Monday. “Cam Atkinson is a very important player, and especially for this coach. He’s in every situation, and that’s what I think of him as a player.”

It wasn’t an easy past couple of days for Atkinson. An embarrassing scratch not long after inking a big extension wasn’t an ideal way to show off his worth to the franchise. But on Sunday he received a text from Martin St. Louis, an off-season Connecticut golf buddy and someone who knows pretty well how Tortorella operates. For more than a half hour the former Tampa Bay Lightning star reminded the 28-year-old that he’s a good player and that the franchise has an incredible amount of confidence in him, as displayed by the contract they just handed him.

[Blue Jackets bet big on Cam Atkinson]

Since Saturday’s scratch, Atkinson had stayed on the ice after skates working on his shot and getting extra touches with the puck to try and restore his confidence. There was time spent watching video, too. And just as important, there was plenty of communication with Tortorella.

“It’s one of those things where once you go down that dark alley, one thing leads to another and it’s hard to get out of it,” Atkinson said. “It’s not so much pointing the fingers, but sometimes you tend to blame your teammates or linemates and that’s something you can’t do. It’s something I’ve tried not to do… Being a healthy scratch was probably the best thing for me.”

There’s more than one Blue Jackets player struggling at the moment, which Tortorella admits is a failure on his part to find a way to get them going again. To the head coach, scratching a player isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a way to help.

Atkinson has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last four seasons, so it’s not like he’s a lost cause or being crushed under the weight of his extension. Now, after a night in the press box, he knows he needs to respond.

“Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch, but it gives you a chance to reassess and hit the reset button, realize where you are at that point in time in the season and what you need to do to get better,” Atkinson said.

“It’s a wake-up call. I take full responsibility. I know I need to be way better, and I will be.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Tortorella roasts ‘dumb’ Blue Jackets after penalty-filled loss

5 Comments

Classic John Tortorella quotes have been lacking lately. The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to a good start this year, so there hasn’t been much for Tortorella to complain about…until now.

The Jackets had 2-0 and 3-2 leads against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden last night, but they ended up dropping a 5-3 decision.

Tortorella’s frustration came from his team’s inability to stay out of the penalty box in the third period. Columbus allowed New York to score the first game-tying goal (2-2), the second game-tying goal (3-3) and the go-ahead goal/game-winner (4-3) on the man-advantage.

“Stupid,” Tortorella said after the game, per the Columbus Dispatch. “We don’t deserve to win.

“When you take stupid penalties, you don’t kill them off. We were a dumb hockey team tonight.”

Some people will roll their eyes at the above quotes because it’s just “Torts being Torts,” but the fact that he’s frustrated is justified. He could probably go about it in a different way, but that’s just the way he is.

Tortorella is trying to take the Jackets from being a nice story last season to being one of the legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference and in the entire NHL. He needs to set the bar high for his hockey club that’s now 9-5-1 on the season.

The truth is that a great team finds a way to close out that game on the road. Of course, it’s a long season and weird things happen over 82 games, but the Rangers are a divisional rival. Letting those two points slip through their fingers is less than ideal.

Columbus is sitting pretty in second place in the Metropolitan Division right now, but the Devils haven’t slowed down, the Penguins will continue to stick around, the Capitals will string some victories together at some point, and the Flyers and both New York teams won’t go away quietly.

Let’s see how the team responds to their coach’s strong criticism.

The Blue Jackets host the Predators tonight.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

No, teams aren’t asking about John Tortorella (not even Columbus)

AP
7 Comments

It’s something that’s faded just a touch, but one might notice that more than a few New York Rangers made their way to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

At this time, it doesn’t appear that one of their most blustery faces in recent memory – former head coach John Tortorella – will be taking up residence in Ohio.

That goes for the rest of the NHL’s struggling teams, too.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline floated a rather interesting nugget on Saturday: teams aren’t calling the Vancouver Canucks to receive permission to inquire about Tortorella:

Torts made quite the show about focusing on helping the U.S. on the international level, and here’s one clear reason (*cough* money *cough*) to see why he may be inclined to wait for the absolute perfect offer:

So, there you go. At the moment, no one’s asking about Torts.

Let’s admit that it would be fun to return his fiery spectacle to the headlines, and Columbus would rank as maybe the most bizarre locale (imagine him hugging it out with Brandon Dubinsky?).

The above at the moment is there for a reason: it’s dangerous to rule out much of anything, especially with a team in an increasingly desperate situation like Columbus.

Just look at how happy Todd Richards is to sleep:

Yikes.

The other bit of Blue Jackets news today is a bit off the beaten track, but still not very promising:

Video: Ducks’ Ryan Kesler’s hilarious Ice Bucket Challenge

8 Comments

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler got into the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this week.

Though it doesn’t have the production value of say Paul Bissonnette, it certainly is something.

Take a look:

After dropping his shorts to reveal his skin-tight bathing suit, Kesler proceeds to ride one of his kid’s toy cars out to the driveway where a pick up truck dumps the water on Kesler and a friend.

The former Canuck also nominates his three former coaches Marc Crawford, Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella. Noticeably absent from those he called out is his new coach Bruce Boudreau.

According to a release by the ALS Association, the organization has received $94.3 million in donations between July 29 and Aug. 27. By comparison, during the same time period in 2013 it received $2.7 million in donations.

Related: Video: Luongo’s amusing Ice Bucket Challenge

Under pressure: Rick Nash

11 Comments

When Rick Nash arrived in New York in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the pressure was on him to resuscitate an offense that had gone dormant under then head coach John Tortorella.

After a year under Alain Vigneault and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final that saw Nash not exactly carry the load offensively throughout the playoffs, there’s a lot of pressure on Nash to prove his worth now more than ever.

Such is the price to pay when you’re under the bright lights in New York City.

Nash’s first season with the Rangers was a strong one as he scored 21 goals with 42 points in 44 games of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Last season, his first under Vigneault, things didn’t go quite as well as he scored 26 goals with 39 points in 65 games.

Things didn’t get better in the playoffs. Nash scored three goals with 10 points in 25 postseason games and the Rangers ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

Nash’s regular season point total was his worst in a full season since his rookie year. His playoff performance had Rangers fans howling for him to do more while a host of other forwards including Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider all put up more points.

Vigneault and Nash both stressed that the chances were there and that he was doing other things to help them win, but it’s goals and points that people remember and not opportunities.

After seeing the Rangers come as close to the Stanley Cup as they’ve been since winning it in 1994 and coming up short, Nash is the guy who faced the most criticism. He’s also the guy that will head into the new season with a target on his back if he doesn’t return to the form that made him the 40-goal scorer the Rangers thought they were getting.

With the number of free agent departures New York had this summer, some think the team could slip and wind up in a fight to make the playoffs. It’ll be up to Nash to try and make sure that doesn’t happen while also feeding his critics a bowl of crow.