Though Ryan Johansen seems likely to find his way back to the lineup after a long series of scratches, I find myself more concerned for some things he's said about matters off ice than anything being done on-ice.
While I certainly agree with anyone comparing this to Tyler Seguin's rookie year who then says "But the Blue Jackets aren't the Bruins", I don't think it's so bad to give the young player periodic times out of the lineup to absorb, adjust, and recoup. Particularly since he was the lone player to take part on all-star weekend, and since his game upon his return seemed to struggle. Saying he's missed four games, to this point, sounds like a lot, but I'd point out that the Johan has appeared in more games this season than John Moore, Jeff Carter, Derick Brassard, or Jared Boll. In fact, among forwards, only Nash, Pahlsson, Vermette, Mackenzie, Dorsett, Prospal, and Umberger have dressed for more games.
If Todd Richards seriously thinks he needs extra workouts and to build up, fine. If he puts him back in tonight, great.
But where I'm concerned is Johansen's remarks to the Dispatch that he's getting very little from his teammates during this period other than occasional stick taps and "good work" after he gets done with practice.
Why can't Rick Nash take a minute to pull him aside and give him some tips on board battles? Why isn't Antoine Vermette offering to build him up on faceoffs? Why can't Derek Dorsett or R.J. Umberger offer to take him out for a burger after practice to talk about their rookie seasons, and how they dealt with going in and out of the lineup?
Perhaps most appropriately, why isn't Derick Brassard stopping by to share some sympathy for a long sampling of press box popcorn and encouraging him to keep his head up?
Should a coach be doing all these things? Yes, certainly. But for a young player looking to keep his confidence up and building himself into an NHL player, I think guidance and support from his peers would mean much, much more. Perhaps he's understating things when he spoke to the media, and perhaps there's been more going on than we think, but the perception certainly concerns me.
We've talked a lot about leadership issues on this team. This is one of the most glaring I've seen this season. You have a talented young player here who is going to be forming his impressions over what it means to be an NHL player, and more importantly, what it means to be part of the Jackets as a team.
Someone in the room needs to step up, because this is the kind of battle whose results may not show up on a scoreboard or stat sheet, but would certainly have a lasting impact beyond this season.