It's nearly impossible to envision the Blue Jackets making the playoffs if Patrik Laine isn't performing at a high level at a consistent rate.
Laine enters the first year of a four-year deal with an $8.7M annual cap hit that he signed over the summer. That cap hit is 13th among wingers and because of the signing, the Jackets had to trade Oliver Bjorkstrand, who scored 28 goals and 57 points last season, for a third-and-fourth-round pick in 2023's Draft.
Earlier this summer, I wrote about Laine's inconsistencies throughout his career. For the Jackets to make the playoffs, he's going to have to be consistent for the entire 82-game regular season.
"You can always get better in this sport," Patrik Laine said at the press conference the day after signing his extension. "...And for me, I think it's just gotta be more steady throughout the year. I think last year I closed the gap between a bad game and a good game a little bit, that's kind of been my main issue, usually, that there's hot streaks and then there's those streaks where things are not going so well."
However, playing with Johnny Gaudreau should make that easier. Although no lines have been confirmed by Brad Larsen, it's safe to say those two prolific players will share the ice at certain points throughout the season.
Yes, you could say that every player on the team needs to be consistent throughout the season for the team to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2020, but Laine will be in the spotlight due to his elite talent.
"That's the thing," Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said at that press conference. "This doesn't mean that he's arrived anywhere. That means expectations are going to rise and I'm sure he's the first one to say that he's got much bigger expectations for him. And I think this is a good deal for both of us."
The expectations will certainly rise. Will Laine live up to them?