Patrik Laine's acquisition made waves.
The Blue Jackets acquired Laine from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Columbus's own disgruntled superstar, Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Finnish winger was coming off of a 2019-20 campaign in which he notched 28 goals and 63 points in 68 games. In 308 games with Winnipeg, Laine notched 140 goals.
His season in Columbus, production-wise, was unlike any of his seasons in Winnipeg. Laine is the most talented winger the Blue Jackets have had since Artemi Panarin, but he struggled to drive play at five on five. John Tortorella wasn't happy with Laine's defensive effort at times, leading to the infamous benching vs. Carolina on February 8th. Laine didn't see a shift in the final 26:19 of the game.
"That's going to stay in-house," said Tortorella after the game. "It wasn't just because of the missed assignment (on Brock McGinn's game-tying goal.) There are a number of things that come into play with that."
There's no way to sugarcoat it: Laine was the worst Blue Jacket during five-on-five play unless you count Mikko Lehtonen (17 GP) or Mikko Koivu (7 GP). Laine's CF% of 43.0 is indicative of how tough it was for him, as the Blue Jackets controlled the puck just 43% of the time when Laine was on the ice.
With a point share of just 0.8, Laine slots in below Mikhail Grigorenko (0.9 PS) and even with Kevin Stenlund (0.8). He was the only Blue Jacket with a negative PS, at -0.1.
Laine's season highlight comes from a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. He picked up the puck in the Blue Jackets' defensive zone, circled the net, and came around with so much speed that he appeared to be shot out of a cannon. As he continued through the neutral zone, he evaded a feeble poke-check attempt from Kirby Dach. Laine entered the Blackhawks' zone and went forehand-backhand to deke by Calvin de Haan, then beat Riley Stillman with his speed, and the Finnish winger was in on goal. He switched back to his forehand and beat Kevin Lankinen to tie the game at three apiece in the third period.
Outlook for Next Season
Laine needs a playmaking center, and what the Blue Jackets currently have didn't get it done last season. He played with Jack Roslovic at times and Max Domi at times, but couldn't find consistency. His best weapon is his shot, and he struggled to create opportunities to get quality shots.
There has been speculation that the Blue Jackets may be looking to move on from Laine, but that seems unlikely after one season, which was essentially a half-season, along with all of the outside noise regarding COVID-19. He's currently a restricted free agent, and all signs point towards him wanting to be in Columbus for the next few years.
"I've enjoyed every minute I've been here," said Laine during his exit interview earlier this month. "I love it here, and it was great to see the fans in the stands, too. Great fan base...I love it here, and I want to stay here for sure."
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