It’s no secret that Patrik Laine has struggled in recent years. A player who was once in the running to be the first-overall pick, and a sniper many insiders had pegged to score 40 goals each season on a regular basis, he has now dropped out of the top five selections in many people’s 2016 mock re-drafts.
Why? What happened to a player that seemed to have it all and appeared, on the surface, to be the next great scorer since Alexander Ovechkin?
Rumors follow Laine like stink on a monkey. Fans and media throw his name into every trade conversation, and they get on his case about a lack of point production. However, his lowest points-per-game season was this past one, in which he put up just over half a point per game. By “normal” standards, that’s pretty good. But a 2nd-overall pick is never held to “normal” standards. In each season aside from last, he’s always had over 0.6 points per game, with a career-high of .96 in 2019-20.
Since his first couple of years, Laine’s play has fallen off in goal-scoring. He’s always been advertised as an Ovechkin-like shooter, the way he can unleash it on the powerplay. In his first two seasons, he had goals in over half the games he played. Since 2018, however, that number drops to about 36 percent, including goals in only a quarter of his games last season.
This year, Laine is set to bounce back. Why, you ask? Two words: Jakub Voracek.
Voracek is heralded as one of the best playmakers in the league, and he scores a ton of points. Last year, which was considered a slow year for Voracek, he “only” put up 34 assists and 43 points in 53 games.
All Laine needs in order to be successful is someone who can feed him the puck. All Voracek needs is someone who can finish when he puts it on their tape. Admittedly, the Blue Jackets’ depth at center ice isn’t great. Luckily, however, you could put a pylon between these two guys and it would be in the running for the Art Ross Trophy.
In Laine’s most successful seasons, he often played with elite playmakers like Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. They knew where Laine was at all times, and as a result, the puck wound up in the back of the net. A lot. Now that he has one of the best playmakers out there, his potential is endless.
The Blue Jackets will enjoy a fresh start as an organization, making plenty of changes to both the lineup and personnel. John Davidson was brought back to Columbus as President of Hockey Operations, and Brad Larsen was promoted to Head Coach with the departure of John Tortorella.
Many players, but Laine, in particular, will benefit from the coaching change. Under Tortorella, players have a short leash: make a mistake, and you lose ice time. Laine is the type of player who needs a little more freedom, which he’ll undoubtedly get with Larsen.
The Jackets have also swapped out several big-name players this off-season, such as Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson, as well as former Captain Nick Foligno at last year’s trade deadline. New faces such as Voracek, Adam Boqvist, and Sean Kuraly will allow the team to develop a winning culture, starting right now.
Although the Blue Jackets are hardly a Stanley Cup favorite, they’ve taken a step in the right direction. Laine will be happier. Voracek will get his status back as an elite playmaker. The young guys will learn what it takes to win. They have a plethora of top-end prospects in the system. If all goes well, we could see these guys hoist the cup in the foreseeable future.
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