In case you missed it, veteran defenseman Jack Johnson and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to terms on a five year deal with an annual average cap hit of $3.25 million.
Immediately upon signing with the Penguins, Johnson was quick to point to the team’s winning culture as a key motivation for joining the team. Johnson, who had played the previous seven seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets said, “I’ve been looking to be in a winning culture.” Johnson had reportedly requested a trade out of Columbus during the season, so it’s no surprise that he’d take a parting shot at the team on his way out the door.
The surprising thing is that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford didn’t have much good to say about the Blue Jackets either.
“I don’t think he had a bad year,” Rutherford said of Johnson’s campaign in 2017-18. “He was a healthy scratch at the end of the season. I know the reason why. It wasn’t because of how he was playing.”
Accord to a report from Blue Jackets insider Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, those comments angered Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekkalainen and made head coach John Tortorella go absolutely BALLISTIC.
Check out some of these juicy quotes from Torts in Portzline’s column:
All I know is, this organization, from the lawyers, the front office, J.D. (John Davidson), the managers, the coaches, players … has done nothing but try to help Jack,” Tortorella told /The Athletic/. “And for him to backhand slap us like this is utter bullshit, and he should know better.
“No one wishes anything bad to happen to him and his family. We wish him the best. But for him to put it the way he put it today is bullshit. And to have a general manager question our decision-making from three hours away, he must be a fucking magician.”
Tororella maintains that the Blue Jackets “bent over backward” to help and support Johnson as he sorted through a messy bankruptcy proceeding. To slap the team on the way out didn’t sit well with Tortorella.
“That’s what pisses me off,” he said. “He doesn’t have enough balls to call me back, because I’ve tried to get in touch with him. You don’t shit on an organization that’s done nothing but try to help you. We all know Jack has had some problems along the way here; it’s very well-chronicled. All we’ve done is try to fucking help him.
“I love the fucking guy (Johnson). I’ve had him on the Olympic team. I get him on the World Cup team. I love the guy. But for him to do this is ridiculous. He has got to start pointing the finger at himself, not other people.
“If I’m a (former) teammate of his and I play against him next year … my gosh … ”
But wait… there’s more! He’s just getting started.
“The thing that pisses me off the most is a general manager in this league questioning and talking about our decision-making,” Tortorella said. “Shut the fuck up!
“Jack and I had an open, honest conversation all through this. Jack and I have known one another forever, and I love the guy. There’s no agenda here. You think that’s an easy decision for me, after what Jack Johnson has been in this league and what he is?
“But that can’t get in my way as far as making the right decisions for this hockey club, and that’s all we do, so Rutherford should shut the fuck up.”
For what it’s worth, Johnson has defended himself saying, “When I first came to Columbus (2012), I was looking forward to helping create a winning culture, help build it,” he said. “I’ve had a wonderful time in Columbus. I met my wife there, started a family there, nothing but great friends and relationships there. I believe they have a winning culture there. All I meant was, I’m excited to be part of Pittsburgh’s winning culture.”
Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, there’s no denying that this is an ugly, messy breakup. As if we needed any more reason to tune into this burgeoning rivalry. Drop the puck already!