The Columbus Blue Jackets Debuted Patrik Laine At Center In Sunday's Loss In Las Vegas

By Dan Dukart on March 20, 2023 at 10:15 am
 Patrik Laine carries the puck
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine skated at center in Sunday's 7-2 loss against the Vegas Golden Knights.

It was the first time in his now 461-regular-season-games career in which the 6'5" forward played anywhere other than on the wing. He tallied two assists and skated 17:32 while being flanked (primarily) by Johnny Gaudreau and Kirill Marchenko.

Going from playing wing to center may not sound like a dramatic difference - these are professional athletes shifting from one forward position to another - but it's totally different position in terms of defensive responsibilities and positioning.

In the short term, it could mean pain, which... over half of the respondents to our poll seem to think is not such a bad thing. After all, with just 13 games left in the regular season, the Blue Jackets are better served to lose these games with big-picture ramifications on the line with the May 8 Draft Lottery. Plus, there's the added benefit of having (potentially) another center option down the road when games have stakes.

Laine was realistic in his self-assessment but seemed to enjoy the assignment, adding that he was the one to bring the idea to the coaching staff after Sean Kuraly's injury.

It's commendable for Laine to request such a challenge, but he isn't exactly known for his defensive prowess and checking abilities at the wing, where the stakes are lower. In the middle of the ice, and down low in the defensive zone, it's easy for a missed assignment to turn into a goal against. That happened on the goal that made it 6-1. Laine was stuck backward skating in a defenseman's posture, and then got caught puck-watching as Chandler Stephenson skated the puck behind the net. 

The Blue Jackets intend to have a new-look lineup next season. Aside from Kuraly, it's fair to say that there could be three new centermen on the team next year, with players like Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic (and others) incumbents who are possibly better served on the wing.

But with just a handful of games remaining, the downside of trying Laine at center is so minimal that, well, why not?

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