Pierre-Luc Dubois said that his play has not been good enough and he needs to be better for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dubois’ acknowledgement and critique of his play Friday comes less than 24 hours after the center was benched for the final 46:32 of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena and nine days after his request to be traded was made public by coach John Tortorella.
Dubois finished with 3:55 of ice time Thursday, his lowest in his 239 NHL games.
“I definitely have to be better,” Dubois said. “As hockey players, we all want to be out there, we all want to be able to help the team make a difference. I can acknowledge that I can be better. I can be a better player. I haven’t had the start of the season that I wanted.”
Tortorella would not confirm if Dubois would be scratched or in the lineup when the Blue Jackets play the Lightning at Nationwide Arena on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, FS-O, SUN, NHL.TV).
He said a decision hadn’t yet been made because he was still going over potential injuries and analyzing individual performances from the game Thursday.
“You name it, it’s not to the level I want it to be at,” Dubois said. “I only have one job and it’s to go out there and help the team win. There’s no gray area, it’s a yes or no answer. If you did help the team you did your job and if you didn’t then you didn’t do it. If it’s tomorrow, I’m not sure, but I will be ready whenever that opportunity comes.”
The 22-year-old, who was a restricted free agent, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Blue Jackets on Dec. 31.
Tortorella, speaking Jan. 13 on The Fan 97.1 in Columbus, said of Dubois, “Yeah, he wants out.”
Tortorella said the decision to bench Dubois following his fifth and final shift with 4:36 remaining in the first period was the culmination of how the coach has felt about his play through the first five games of the season. He did not equate it to the trade request.
Dubois has one goal and seven shots on goal in the five games. He led the Blue Jackets scoring 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 games last season, when he averaged 17:56 of ice time per game.
“We live and die on our team concept, we live and die playing as a team and if I don’t think someone is doing that and it continues — last night he doesn’t get benched for one shift, this has eroded and it just kept on eroding in the first five games,” Tortorella said. “A lot of people are putting a bigger deal to it because of the extenuating circumstances with it. You guys can do that. I’m just coaching athletes and I will not allow our standard of play and our culture and how we go about our business here change. We’ve got to keep on growing because that is how we have survived in this league in trying to be a better team in this league, getting into playoffs and hopefully someday progressing in the playoffs.”
Dubois said the benching should motivate him the next time he plays.
“It’s a thing that you’ve got to learn from,” he said. “It’s definitely something you don’t want to repeat. For it to not repeat itself you’ve got to be better. I mean as hockey players you just want to be out there and help the team win and the fact that I couldn’t definitely motivates you to step up your game and get back to the level I know I can play at.”
Tortorella said he’s not worried about how Dubois’ benching will impact the rest of the team and that it instead comes down to the center’s handling of the situation to determine when and how much he will play in the future.
“Follow through,” Tortorella said. “Rhetoric is rhetoric, actions are what I’m looking for. Again, this isn’t just with Luc, it’s everybody and everybody understands that. As long as I’m here, I am not letting that slide because that is how we are able to stay and grow as a team here. We don’t have the superstars. It’s a small market. A lot of things come with this. But when you play as a team, and we have progressed the past three or four years in understanding that, then you start growing as a team. Not one … person is going to affect us and try to bring that down from this standard. I won’t allow it.”