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Jackets’ Dubois on benching: ‘Out of my control’

Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella benched center Pierre-Luc Dubois in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, and the disgruntled star didn’t see the ice again after the first period.

Dubois went to the bench with 4:36 remaining in the opening period, following a lackadaisical shift that drew criticism on the Jackets’ local broadcast.

“I really don’t make decisions as far as minutes. It’s up to the player to show me. You’re going to get out there if you play the proper way. The onus is on the player,” Tortorella said after the game, refusing to go into specifics on the benching. “And it’s on all players — not just the player that sat. I’m not a hard guy to read as far as that’s concerned.”

Dubois, 22, signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension before training camp, at the same time he was asking for a trade out of Columbus.

While the player and his general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, danced around the subject in training camp, Tortorella confirmed that Dubois “wants out” in a recent interview with 97.1 The Fan.

“He hasn’t given a reason why he wants to leave. He should get in front of it. That’s the way I think you should go about your business, and be the best team you can be,” said the coach.

Dubois led the Jackets with 49 points in 70 games last season before a star-making performance in the playoffs with 10 points in 10 games. The No. 3 overall pick in 2016, Dubois has 159 points in 238 career games.

“That’s a coach’s decision,” Dubois said of the benching. “It’s out of my control. Like I said, I can be a better player. I know that, I acknowledge that. My play hasn’t been at the level that it can be at. Then what happened last night, that’s a coach’s decision. The coach is paid to coach, and the players are paid to play, and there’s not much I can control in that decision.”

It’s the second time Tortorella has benched Dubois this week, as he kept him off the ice for a good portion of the second period in a game against Detroit on Monday. Tortorella pushed back on the notion that Dubois had been benched in that game, saying “you’ll know when I bench” a player.

“Told ya,” said Tortorella, after sitting Dubois on Thursday.

“It wasn’t the first time I got benched by Torts, and I wasn’t the first guy that got benched by Torts,” Dubois said Friday while trying to downplay the situation. “Whether it’s Torts or another coach, guys get benched, and I think it’s a thing they’ve got to learn from. It’s definitely something you don’t want to repeat, and for it not to repeat itself. [I’ve] got to be better.”

Tortorella on Friday said he doesn’t know yet whether Dubois will play in Saturday’s game against the Lightning.

“This has eroded and it just kept eroding in the first five games,” Tortorella said Friday. “And I think a lot of people are putting a bigger deal on it because of the extenuating circumstances. … 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.”

Dubois is the latest Columbus player who decided he wanted to move on from the franchise. Stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky left the Jackets as free agents in 2019, having made their intentions clear to their teammates before that.

Both Tortorella and team captain Nick Foligno mentioned that this isn’t the first time the team has dealt with a player in their dressing room seeking to leave.

“My priority is the team. Luc is part of that and we’ve had those conversations behind closed doors. I can’t worry about who’s not (playing) and who is. That’s the coach’s decision. My job is just to play with the guys that are out there,” said Foligno.

Tortorella denied that Dubois is receiving any extra scrutiny this season.

“I’ve coached Luc 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. Nothing changes here. There’s more spotlight on that, and I get why you guys have to ask the questions. But you’re asking the wrong guy. I’m just the coach. I try to make it work with a hockey club, try to win games. The person that you’re talking about, you should ask him.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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