Puzzling or admirable, the way Columbus handled a one-game benching of Sergei Bobrovsky requires a deep dive.
The Blue Jackets issued a release regarding the goaltenders status, declaring he wouldn’t be with the team for a game in Nashville.
— MLB &NHL News Now (@MLB_News247) January 11, 2019
GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
“There are certain expectations and values that we have established for our players that define our culture,” Kekalainen said in a press release. “An incident occurred in which Sergei failed to meet those expectations and values, so we made the decision that he would not be with the team for tonight’s game. This is an internal matter and we will have no further comment at this time.”
— Heart of NHL (@HeartofNHL) January 11, 2019
Full disclosure, I don’t know what caused the team to take this action. I have guessed and put out feelers, but I am not ready to offer any of those results publically. Just because we don’t have the reason why Bob will not suit up doesn’t come close to pausing the advancement of this situation.
Let us start with the statement itself. If the organization wanted to brush this under the carpet, it would have been easy. Dress Bobrovsky as the back-up against the Predators. Sure it would raise eyebrows, but it would be sellable.
Then we get to Bobrovsky’s future with Columbus. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, with all indications pointing to testing the market.
— NHL Prospects Watcher (@Prospects_Watch) January 10, 2019
“After last season, I told the situation to the management of the Blue Jackets, so they know everything,” Bobrovsky said, per Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. “They know my plans for the season. They know my plans for the future. They know everything.
“They know exactly what we’re going to do.”
Coach and players relationships can be regularly stressed. It has been reported but not substantiated by me, Bobrovsky and Columbus Coach John Tortorella have been at odd’s this winter including an exchange of sorts when the netminder was pulled against Tampa Bay this week.
Taking a tense relationship into considering imagine for a minute that this star player has zero intention of re-signing with the organization. What you end up with is the potential approach that looks like this. “screw him (coach), I’m outta here soon. I will do my own thing.” I have no idea if that’s the case in this instance, but I could see Bobrovsky taking a bolder position with Tortorella if his exit is firmly intended.
So why might this actually may be a good indicator for Blue Jackets fans holding out hope for a lengthy playoff run? Before I explain that, some background?
The only way for Columbus to keep Panarin, and now, Bobrovsky, is to fire Torts, hire Coach Q. Panarin gains a familiar coach and Bobs gains a player’s coach.
— Chad Hryhorysak (@ChadHry) January 11, 2019
Unless it was something severe, I strongly doubt the violation that led to the surprising decision to scratch Bobrovsky was the first occurrence. If it were a significant event, then the benching would be for more than a game. Columbus has a decision to make, trade Bobrovsky before the deadline or hold onto the talented netminder and risk watching him walk away without any compensation to the organization. Immediate attention was attracted when the Blue Jackets went public with Bobrovsky’s team-imposed punishment. We aren’t talking Defcon 5, but there’s significant interest, and the media is searching for what happened. Another way to phrase it, this certainly wouldn’t enhance any package Jarmo Kekalainen would receive at the NHL trade deadline.
I envy anyone who has broad, unrelenting principles of respect and dedication but removing any ethical wiggle room would result in someone being wiped out in professional sports. I’m not saying this in a seedy way, but rather, if Columbus was worried about this players trade value, this story does not get out. Columbus has been honest; there is no cover-up
Here is my theory.
#BlueJackets coach John Tortorella WASN’T talking today & his words spoke volumes.
A tenuous relationship between Sergei Bobrovsky & the team took a nasty turn when No. 72 was pulled after giving up four on Tuesday…and was told to stay home for tonight’s game. #TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/TAbuq6IoiD
— Gino Reda (@GinoRedaTSN) January 10, 2019
I believe this is a serious attempt to bring a star player in line with the rest of the dressing room and the head coach. Make sure all is ok before the stretch drive.
It’s still a gamble. Columbus may even trade Bobrovsky if this doesn’t result in a better environment. It’s worth any risk. Calm the water, turn down the temperature and start planning for a critical post-season for the franchise. Columbus has never won a playoff series. Getting on the board would be a significant step, but given the questions around both Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin’s pending free agency, a push into June is what the club is aiming for right now.
The critical question is, what about Bob?