Decision to Bench Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine Correct and Concerning

By Coby Maeir on November 17, 2023 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Patrik Laine (29) carries the puck away from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) during the third period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

After the Blue Jackets lost to the Coyotes 3-2 on Thursday, dropping their seventh straight game and 11th in 12 contests, Pascal Vincent was asked if it's tough to win games when the young players are the best players and if he needs more from some places, presumably alluding stars Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine

"Asking the question is answering the question," Vincent said. 

Laine sat for the final 9:53 of the game and Gaudreau didn't play the final 6:15 of Thursday's contest. What highlighted their absences was the fact that they were not on for the 3:20 that the Jackets had their net empty and needed a tying goal in the final 1:57 of regulation. 

Normally, it would be a puzzling decision to keep those two players off the ice during such a critical moment in the game. However, on Thursday, it felt like Vincent made the correct choice to keep them on the bench. They did not give the Blue Jackets the best chance to win.

That's about as concerning as it gets.

Laine and Gaudreau have both struggled to produce, posting 2-1--3 in eight games and 1-5--6 in 17 games, respectively. 

While Gaudreau's main skill is playmaking and therefore is reliant on teammates to produce assists, Laine's top ability is to score goals, and he just hasn't done it enough. On Thursday, he failed to register a shot on goal. How does that happen? Laine has posted 40-goal seasons in the past, and the Blue Jackets need him to play at that level in order to start winning games. 

For Gaudreau, he's at least been putting his teammates in positions to succeed, they just haven't been able to convert. 

For two players that take up 22.1% of the Blue Jackets' salary cap, the production has been so far below what's expected and even what's acceptable. 

With the Blue Jackets sitting at 4-9-4 and last in the Metropolitan Division, the lack of production from Gaudreau and Laine is the main reason why. 

If they play up to their pedigree, the wins will come. Until then, it's going to be a long season. 

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