Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched in the first period of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena on Thursday, a week after the center’s request to be traded was made public by coach John Tortorella.
Dubois left the ice after his fifth shift with 4:36 remaining in the period and did not play the rest of the game. He finished with 3:55 of ice time, his lowest in his 238 NHL games.
“It’s not difficult for me,” Tortorella said. “I’ve got to call them as I see them and just go about our business on the bench and try to win a hockey game.”
The 22-year-old, who was a restricted free agent this offseason, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Columbus on Dec. 31.
Tortorella, speaking Jan. 13 on The Fan 97.1 in Columbus, said of Dubois, “Yeah, he wants out. …
“I wish he was a little bit more honest as far as reasons why. I still haven’t really gotten to that, but I think he needs to speak on that. I won’t.”
Dubois scored 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 games last season, when he averaged 17:56 per game. The No. 3 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, he has not missed a game since making his NHL debut on Oct. 6, 2017.
“I’ve coached [Dubois] like this for a couple of years, as far as trying to get him to get some growth in his game and growth as a pro,” Tortorella said Thursday. “So, nothing changes. There’s more spotlight on it, I get that, and I get you guys have to ask me the questions, but you’re asking the wrong guy. I’m just a coach, trying to make it work with a hockey club trying to find a way to win games. The person that you keep talking to me about, you should ask him.”
Dubois declined interview requests made through the Blue Jackets public relations staff following the game.
“We’ve had our talks with him,” Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. “He’s one of us until told otherwise. We said that out loud and that’s the way it is. We don’t treat him any differently.
“It’s the perfect storm. He didn’t play tonight. Tensions are high. For us, we’ve got 20 other guys to worry about and the team to worry about.”
Tortorella said Dubois’ benching was a reflection of his play and not related to his trade request.
“I’ve told you many times, I really don’t make decisions as far as minutes, it’s up to the player to show me,” Tortorella said. “And if there’s one thing I’m pretty easy to read on is the minutes. You’re going to get out there if you play, and if you play the proper way you’re going to get back out there. The onus is on the player, and all players, not just the player we’re talking about here that sat. It’s all the players, and I’m not a hard guy to read as far as that’s concerned.”
Dubois has scored one goal in five games with Columbus this season. He led the Blue Jackets with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 postseason games last season, which ended with a five-game loss to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round.
Dubois has scored 159 points (66 goals, 93 assists) in 238 regular-season games and 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games.