Ryan Johansen has gone from Columbus Blue Jackets star to benched under head coach John Tortorella. It just may be a sign of things to come.

By William Chase

“Coaches decision. No explanation. I just didn’t play him.”

Those were the frank words of Columbus Blue Jackets’ coach John Tortorella following his teams’ 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Stars Tuesday night. The quote referencing Ryan Johansen‘s abrupt departure from the game.

No explanation needed coach. No, really.

Down 4-1 entering the third, Johansen’s night was decidedly over, logging just 11:03 ice-time. A season low. According to Aaron Portzline, The Columbus Dispatch, Joey played “lethargic” over the first 40 minutes. Bad passes, neutral-zone turnovers and the inability to clear the puck tends to designate players to the bench.

At least it does for Ryan Johansen. It does in John Tortorella’s world.

It’s an understatement to say the Blue Jackets are among, if not the most, disappointing team in the entire NHL. Coming off last year’s 15-1-1 run to end the season, hopes were high. Playoff aspirations were heralded upon the team, by fans and media alike.

Johansen, 23, currently ranks T-127th with six goals in the NHL through 31 games. He has 16 assists and is second on his team with 22 points.

The young forward scored 33 goals two seasons ago, 26 last year. Point totals increased from 63 to 71. Among the rising stars in the entire league, it appeared Joey and the Jackets were made for each other.

Before the 2014-15 season, Johansen’s part in a drawn-out and contentious contract squabble, initially shed light onto perhaps the ugliness that can be associated with a Ryan Johansen. However, five goals and 13 points later that October, and the ugliness was history.

Who knows what the problem is with Johansen this year; the Jackets mired in an 0-7 skid to start the season, and leading to a coaching change from mild-tempered Todd Richards to the exact opposite in John Tortorella can be an adjustment for anyone. Especially, it seems, for Johansen who has been inside Tort’s doghouse from the beginning.

Reports regarding Johansen’s shape stemmed following their first game together in Minnesota, Oct. 22, when Joey was benched the final 6:10 of the third period, his team down by one.

When Johansen missed a game in October due to health issues, Tortorella reiterated Ryan is “a hell of a player and we need everybody to play.”

The Blue Jackets sorely need Ryan Johansen to play like Ryan Johansen; the point-per-game player he looked on the rise of becoming.

Derrick Brassard, who had Torts briefly in New York, once said:

“He doesn’t care who you are, where you were drafted, what is your last name. If you’re playing hard and playing well, you’re going to get a lot of minutes. If you’re not, you’re not going to play.”

That has simply been the case between Tortorella and Johansen of late.

Joey, who is making $3 million this season and scheduled to make $6 million for next year, will become a restricted free agent following the 2016-17 season; a time when teams can make any offer to Johansen, while Columbus can match all offers.

Though nothing concrete has surfaced, and while Joey may just fit into the long-term plans, the elephant in the room is hard to ignore.

Perhaps Torts’ comments are just the extra motivation Joey needs, the lack of ice-time a way to send the player a message. All the same, it’s easy to imagine Johansen skating for a different team the longer this plays out.

As the team toils at the bottom of the league, in contention for the number one draft pick in next summer’s entry draft, I would expect the trade rumors to swirl harder around No. 19.

The Jackets were said to be quietly gauging interest on Johansen in November.

It was no secret heading into the season that the defense was less than stellar, and the numbers bear that out—bottom five in goals allowed per game (3.00) and second to last in goals allowed this season (99).

Still, heading into the season, the mood and energy around the team couldn’t have been higher following bold offseason transactions, the official designation of the ‘C’ on new-captain Nick Foligno all ratcheting the confidence and buzz through the roof.

The scoring potential on the team is still high, despite a less than meager 2.30 goals-per-game currently. Parting with Johansen, while a blow offensively, might not hurt the team over the long-haul assuming the likes of Scott Hartnell, Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson do what they do best in finding the net, as well as the emergence of William Karlsson.

Frank Seravalli, TSN, referenced those considered ‘trade bait,’ in a Nov. 24 article. Among those listed, Johansen, and others, particularly defenseman, included the likes of Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell of the Calgary Flames and Trevor Daley, who shoulder be considered unavailable after being moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week.

Others included Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen of the Ottawa Senators, Luke Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers, Jarred Tinordi, Montreal Canadiens and Matt Carle of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Again, these are just names considered up for potential trades right now, with Hamonic and Shenn closer in annual average value to Johansen—Harmonic, 4-years, $3.9 million and Shenn, 2015-16, $3.6 million. Hamonic, though has reportedly already asked for a trade closer to his Manitoba home for family reasons, and Schenn is an unrestricted free agent following this season.

Cross them off the proverbial list.

It might take a Johansen to net a quality D-man, and considering the state of the team right now, and where they may or may not be in a few months, the Johansen saga will only get more interesting. Seth Jones of the Nashville Predators is a restricted free agent following this season, and with a $3.225 million AAV, is a name to keep an eye on.

Next: How The New York Giants Can Win The NFC East; Schedules, Scenarios

William Chase is editor at Elite Sports NY, and has been featured on such prominent websites including Bleacher Report. William is also currently the Marketing & Media Relations Intern for the Augusta GreenJackets.