COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two days after being scratched for the first time in his career, Columbus Blue Jackets veteran Patrick Laine made it clear how he felt about first-year coach Pascal Vincent’s decision.
“Probably because of my career, it’s probably the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Layne. “So obviously I’m not happy about it. You know that. It happened. It’s done and we’re back (to practice). So just try to concentrate on playing.
Laine didn’t stop there, he was blindsided by Vincent’s decision, feeling it wasn’t fair and didn’t help his game, even though he knows he’s struggled for part of this season due to injuries. He has two goals and one assist in 9 games.
“If your faith isn’t there, I don’t think you’ll find him eating popcorn, watching the game,” Laine said. “This is my opinion.
“I understand, the people who go are playing. I understand. I’m not stupid. But at the same time, if you want to go, you have to be there. I can’t be confident drinking BioSteel on the bench. I’m not going to cry about it because I’m not in a position to complain about anything the way I played. But like that. That’s what I see.
The Blue Jackets are off to a 4-10-4 start heading into Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena. The list of “things that went wrong” in Columbus is long, but when Layne was the poster boy scratched against the Flyers, the Jackets’ losing streak (0-7-2) tied a franchise record with nine.
Laine, 25, was clearly biting his tongue during a lengthy interview with reporters on Tuesday.
“I don’t know what to say, so I’m not going to analyze it that much,” Laine said. “I’ll keep it that way. I’m not saying anything stupid. It’s their business. This is where I play. And when they tell me, I play.
“It was a complete surprise, yes. We had some conversations (with Vincent), but I don’t think it was related to that. I was blindsided, not gonna lie. But what do you do? Just drink it and bear it. I’m just talking about it.
Laine has known Vincent since he was drafted in 2016 in Winnipeg. Vincent has been the head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose since that season, but the Moose and Jets both play at the MTS Center and frequently share ice time.
He said this did not make Sunday’s decision easy to accept.
“I don’t think it matters who it is, whether it’s Patty or someone I don’t know,” Laine said. “I said the same thing – I’m not happy about it. I don’t think it’s fair.
“It is what it is. They heard my side. I heard their side. At the end of the day, they’re the ones making the call on who’s playing. I’m just going to be there when they tell me. I never thought I’d see this day. So just try to move forward and work hard and get back in the game.”
Vincent has made several bold coaching moves in his first 6 weeks behind the bench.
Defensive end Damon Severson, who signed an eight-year, $50 million contract, sat out the third game of the season on Oct. 16 against Detroit. Veterans Johnny Gaudreau and Laine were both benched for the third time in a 3-2 loss to Arizona, even though the Blue Jackets kept scoring with an extra forward.
But Lane’s healthy streak, who played 471 NHL games and scored 200 goals, was taking things to another level. So far, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalain have supported Vincent’s coaching methods.
Vincent may have gotten the response he was looking for if Gaudreau has started playing a little better in recent games. Lane is hoping for a similar response on Wednesday and beyond.
“I expect him and all the players to respond as human beings,” Vincent said. I know he wasn’t happy. I would be disappointed if he was just happy today and said something different.
“There is never any (attempt) to embarrass any of our people with our decisions. That is not the point. We want him to respond as a man and play hard tomorrow. no more.”
Laine has moved back and forth from center to right wing twice this season. As of Tuesday, he’s back on the wing, skating with rookie center Adam Fantilly and left winger Dmitri Voronkov.
It’s not the first time Laine and Fantilly have played together, but Fantilly is the first to center the line. Earlier this season, Laine lined up with Alexandre Tessier and Fantilly on the wings, but the trio lasted less than three games.
“Even before he got to Winnipeg, he was considered a character,” Vincent said. “If you’re in a Game 7 and you need a guy to make a difference, Patrick Laine was your guy. So he is in and we hope to see tomorrow and the future.
“We need him. We absolutely need him. We need the talent. We need his presence. We need a skill level. We need his ability to be a difference maker in games. We know he can. “For me, we’re moving forward,” he said.
Vincent was promoted to the top job in Columbus four days before training camp following the release of Mike Babcock. If players thought that traveling under Vincent would be easy, they were sorely mistaken.
Asked if he was worried his tough style might divide the dressing room or pit the players against him, Vincent said it didn’t matter.
“My vision for this team is we want to be a team that challenges to make the playoffs every year,” Vincent said. “And if we continue as we are, that will not happen.
So by resisting men, by making these decisions, there is a reason behind it. There is a vision behind it, and to get there, yes, it will be uncomfortable for some people. He is asking this: Are you logged in? Or are you on your way?’ We are at that stage.
(Photo by Patrick Laine: Jason Mowry/Getty Images)