COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ryan Johansen knows it’s part of the gig, but it’s still not easy being the subject of daily trade rumors. And in the age of social media, it’s hard not to get distracted when fans from markets like, say, Minnesota, directly tweet you nightly hoping you’re traded to the Wild.
“It’s a little weird, I’ll be honest, to see your name with all these comments and funny things. People have some interesting comments,” said a smiling Johansen, a Blue Jackets center who finished 16th in NHL scoring last season. “I love being a Blue Jacket, I love playing in this city, and it’s my job to play to my abilities and when you’re not, you’re going to be in those conversations where, ‘Does he belong here? Do they want him here?’
“If I’m going out there and I’m doing my job and … doing what I’m capable of, then that stuff will start going away.”
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is trying to get Johansen back to that level. He entered Tuesday’s game against the Wild — one of many teams that has inquired about him — with six goals and 20 assists in 37 games. Tortorella has benched Johansen, demoted him to the fourth line and even scratched him.
“Joey’s 23 years old. … He’s got a ton to learn,” Tortorella said. “It’s not a negative connotation at all, and we’re going to teach him. … The greatest thing about him is just his ability. He has more ability than a lot of players in the league. It’s trying to get him to get there all the time. And that’s a process. That’s a maturity level. And he hasn’t totally matured yet. The onus falls on us to try to get that out of him.”
Despite stories about a fractured relationship, Tortorella said, “Quite honestly, I like the kid.”
Johansen acknowledges he has had a “tough first half. I know that. It’s not like I’m walking in the room with a swagger thinking I’m doing my job. … [Tortorella] made it very clear the minute he walked in here and talked to me that he wants to make me a better hockey player. And whether we have a couple arguments … he’s made it very clear it’s for my best interest on making me a better hockey player and to make this team a better hockey club.
“When something he feels needs to be addressed with me or something he needs to teach me or I’m doing things wrong, then he’ll say something. But other than that, he’s got a team to worry about. The last thing you want is a room focused on something like that. It’s unnecessary and a distraction.”
Johansen is pals with the Wild’s Nino Niederreiter, his former linemate with Portland of the Western Hockey League. They were drafted back-to-back (fourth and fifth overall) in 2010.
“I was going to take him to dinner [Monday], but he blew me off,” Johansen said, laughing. “So I’m not happy about that actually. I’m going to run him.” Niederreiter said the Wild had a team dinner.
• The All-Star Game lineups will be announced Wednesday. The Wild likely will have one representative — goalie Devan Dubnyk or defenseman Ryan Suter. “We have a number of guys that are deserving,” coach Mike Yeo said.
• Winger Ryan Carter didn’t play because of a hand injury.
• Former Ohio State defenseman Tyson Strachan made his Wild debut. Nate Prosser was scratched because of a hand injury.