Last season was tough on every Blue Jackets player, coach, and staff member.
In a normal season, the results would have been tough. No one likes to lose. But when you combine the Blue Jackets' last-place finish with all of the COVID-19 restrictions that they had to endure, it's a double whammy.
Patrik Laine was one of the most emotional Blue Jackets after a big win or big loss last season. It was refreshing to hear him speak his mind because it was clear that he wouldn't hold anything back, like the time that he called the referees' decision not to pull a goal back for Carolina due to an obvious offside "the biggest joke he's ever seen." With that in mind, it was easy to see that Laine was struggling during his first year in Columbus, as the consistent losing began to take over the minds of every Blue Jacket.
The Finnish winger tallied only 10-11-21 in 45 games with Columbus, as Jack Roslovic (who was also acquired in the trade that saw Pierre-Luc Dubois sent to Winnipeg) outshone Laine. The Columbus native notched 12-22-34 in 48 games. It was by far Laine's worst season in terms of point production, and he also struggled significantly on the defensive side of things.
Alright. Enough about last year.
The Blue Jackets now have a new coach in Brad Larsen. John Tortorella (TBD) and Brad Shaw (assistant coach, Vancouver) have moved on. Seth Jones will likely be traded before the season, and the Blue Jackets will also lose a player to Seattle in the expansion draft. They've brought in Gregory Hofmann and Justin Danforth for some help on the wing, and Gustav Nyquist will be healthy next season.
These moves, especially the return in a potential Seth Jones trade, will greatly affect how the Blue Jackets play next season. They will have more freedom with fewer COVID-19 restrictions, so that will be a weight off their back as well. Laine now has a whole offseason to learn the new systems being put in place by Larsen, continue to build camaraderie with his teammates due to the relaxed restrictions and work on his game.
This last NHL season was a lot like the 2020 Major League Baseball season. The condensed, 60-game MLB season saw many stars slump for the entirety of the year, and while 60 games are roughly a third of an MLB season compared to the NHL shortened schedule that was 68% of a regular season, there are still comparisons to be made. This year, many of those baseball stars have rebounded.
In his four years in Winnipeg, Laine averaged .46 goals per game. Extrapolated to an 82-game season, that's 37.5 goals per season. While last season was tough, expect it to be a blip in Laine's career. He is a special player, and this offseason will work wonders for him and the Blue Jackets.