It’s time to talk about Patrik Laine.
The Winnipeg Jets forward is currently in Finland, where his club will play two games against the Florida Panthers as part of the NHL Global Series. He’s also among the most popular people in Finland right now and was renowned even before he joined the league.
But Laine isn’t producing this season, at least not up to his usual standards, and that’s got people concerned.
In a dozen games, the Tampere native has just five points – three goals and two assists. He’s been bumped up and down the Jets’ lineup and has even been on the fourth line, which went over like a lead balloon. All three of Laine’s goals have come on the power play, by the way.
And it’s not for lack of trying, either. Laine’s cracked the puck off more than most. He’s got 44 shots on goal and abundant posts, which relaxes his 6.8 shooting percentage right down. He’s also a minus-3, which suggests that there may be some defensive issues. And anyone who’s watched him a lot as of late knows that he hasn’t been all that slick getting back to play D.
That’s why Paul Maurice’s next decision is so interesting. And perilous.
Against the Panthers in Finland, Laine looks to start with Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev. This is a typically defensive unit and Tanev and Lowry have been classing up the joint by containing the opposition. Laine’s presence could unbutton a critical balance, but it could also drive the young sniper up where he belongs.
And in Finland, that would be good. After all, the press ate Maurice alive when they found out Laine was lingering around the lower stratum of the lineup. And if he’s a fourth line guy in Helsinki, the coach will be in media trouble once more. Like he cares.
At the end of the day, something has to get Laine going. Juggling him around may not help. Going home again may not help. Getting his pacing up with Lowry and Tanev may not help.
But then again, maybe those moves will help and maybe Laine can build on some jam with Jack Roslovic and Brendan Lemieux after all. And that’s something the Finnish throng is just going to have to deal with, even if they want to viedä saunan taakse the coaching staff.