The Winnipeg Jets built this core on young talent. The face of that young talent now seems to have fallen on hard times. But why?
The Winnipeg Jets got Patrik Laine number two overall a few years ago, and he went on to put up 36 goals in 73 games in his rookie season, as an 18 year old. They looked to have a bonafide star on their hands.
The following year, Laine added 44 goals. The comparisons to another hard shooting, big forward were abundant. They were premature, sure, but we could dream. Eighty goals before your 20th birthday?
I’m all about it. But then, this year happened. Well, actually, Laine struggled in the postseason and drew the ire of a fanbase that is normally very positive. I just assumed he wore down. And even if he gave into the pressure, it’s only natural for someone that age.
But then he struggled in the preseason, too. I assumed it was nothing to worry about. After all, it was just the preseason.
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And you know, it kinda was. In the first 33 games of this current season (that’s important to note), Laine had 23 goals and 30 points. This included a hat trick in Finland and a five goal game against St. Louis.
At one point he had 11 goals in four games and 13 in six games. The legend of Laine was in full swing. He was on pace for close to 70 goals at some point, and while that was never realistic, 50 seemed like a reasonable goal.
But then, in the following 45 games, he has just eight goals. That’s .18 goals a game for a dude that averaged more than half a goal a game for his first two seasons. What happened? Is he hurt?
He managed to do most of this with Bryan Little centering him, so we can’t blame his shortcomings. Laine went fifteen games without a goal at one point. His plus/minus, on a team with a +30 goal differential, is -20.
Bryan Little is the only other forward past -5, and he’s at -8. I realize Patty Lines isn’t known for his defense, but that’s a bit much. If you’re not scoring, and you’re not defending, you’re not super valuable.
Everything is down. He’s on pace to outshoot his previous two seasons, but his shooting percentages went from 17.6%, to 18.3% to 13.1%. His Corsi is a career-low 46.6%.
His defensive zone starts are a career low 39.8%, so Paul Maurice is trying to put him in every position to succeed. I considered that maybe the usage of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler on the powerplay are hurting Laine, but that doesn’t really hold up.
Laine still has fourteen tallies on the man-advantage, so I’m not crying. Is it conditioning? Is the game just getting too fast for him? He’s not much of a skater.
Laine hasn’t even adjusted to passing more effectively, as he’s on pace for a career low in assists as well. I wish I knew what was wrong. Could it just be a slump? He’s still insanely young. Sometimes it takes time for the league to adjust to the player, and then the player to readjust to the league.
Maybe we’re just waiting on a Patrik Laine adjustment. I figure it’ll be one of the Jets biggest projects over the offseason. I understand that even at his best, he’s very limited. But the list of teenagers that can blast 44 goals is pretty small. He has a talent that a lot of players don’t.
Can he and the Winnipeg Jets figure out the best way to harness it going forward? Probably, but we’ll see. Maybe he can turn it on down the stretch. An impressive showing in the playoffs would go a long way.
Every team needs a scapegoat when things go wrong, however, and he looks like he’s the guy in Winnipeg. It’s unfortunate, but he’s a polarizing figure.