Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Cole Sillinger got his first taste of adversity at the NHL level, as he was benched for virtually the entire third period in the club's 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
The 18-year old, who had played 13:37 and 13:54 in the first two games, respectively, played just 9:46 in Detroit, including just 0:03 in the third period. Only Gregory Hofmann played less (7:44).
The reason for his benching is unknown, but it could have been a result of the slashing penalty he took in the second period. At the same time, it could have just been a coach's decision based on on-ice performance.
On the one hand, one benching isn't a big deal. Honestly, it's almost astonishing how proficient Sillinger has looked virtually every time he's worn a Blue Jackets sweater, from the Traverse City tournament to training camp, through the preseason, and even in the first two games of the regular season. And, while Tuesday may not have been his best performance, he was far from alone. The entire team, save Joonas Korpisalo, struggled in virtually all facets of the game. The defensive zone coverage was sloppy, the passes the opposite of crisp, the decision-making bad.
Per NaturalStatTrick, Sillinger had tied for the third-lowest 5v5 CF% on the team (25%), besting only the third pair of Andrew Peeke and Scott Harrington and tied with Alexandre Texier. Small sample size, obviously, but I could understand the coaching staff justifying sitting a player down who has 12 shot attempts against, while generating just four, in 7:46 of 5v5 playing time, in a tied game heading into the third period.
On the other hand, there's a real case to be made that, in this year of development, players like Sillinger should play through their bad nights. Obviously, the odd benching will happen, and that's fine, but I'd be frustrated to see young players benched instead of being given valuable ice time on any sort of consistent basis. Sillinger is eligible to play in the AHL and the WHL, too, and could even play in the U20 World Junior Championship this winter. Management has already voiced how important playing time is for the youngsters in the organization.
Over the course of an 82-game season, things like this are bound to happen. I was pleasantly surprised to see Larsen give Sillinger 13+ minutes in each of the first two games. And while I'm not thrilled that he was sat, there's obviously a reason the coaching staff felt it was necessary. And as long as it's not a trend, I'm good with that.