Jets: It’s Laine Time (Again)

Patrik Laine.

It’s been a few weeks since we last talked about the Winnipeg Jets forward. Since then, free agency had a few highlights and Joe Thornton is a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Also, Laine’s back in the middle of trade rumours.

Word from his agents had a trade being “mutually beneficial” to both teams, which is a way to suggest that the Jets might want to look into something that yields an advantage by moving their player. It’s not quite a trade request, but it’s definitely not not a trade request.

You don’t need to be a genius to determine things between the Jets and Laine are more awkward than my dad at a vegan buffet.

Laine’s been atop the trade rumour tower for a while now, contract talks don’t seem to ever go all that smoothly, and the forward wants more ice time and opportunity than he’s getting.

The Jets have been down this road before with the likes of Jacob Trouba and Evander Kane, with the recent Dustin Byfuglien situation somewhat impacting the overall reputation of the club. And whether or not that reputation is fair isn’t for this puck physician to say, but Winnipeg needs to get this thing right.

So, Patrik Laine. Again.

Laine’s argument is that he wants to play more with Mark Scheifele and that he doesn’t get enough minutes on the top unit. The counterargument is that Paul Maurice likes his unit of Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler.

Laine is third among Winnipeg forwards in ice time. He was fifth on the team in offensive zone starts, third among forwards in five-on-five ice time. He was first overall in shot attempts, but a look at advanced statistics paints a rather grim picture. In terms of Corsi For, a reflection of his team’s ability to control the puck with him on the ice, he’s a dismal 48.4 percent.

For a fair comparison, Nikolaj Ehlers boasts a 55.2 percent across 71 regular season games and Wheeler is a 52.5.

Does this build a case for Laine’s place in the lineup as decided by the coaching staff? Maybe.

The insistence that Laine has been deprived of playing with Scheifele and deprived of opportunities to skate in critical situations isn’t accurate. He logs the longest shifts of any player on the Jets, is the fourth-most active skater on the power play. He’s a specialist, a production guy.

And he does produce, obviously. Also obvious: his better days are ahead of him still. Some argue he’s the best pure goal-scorer in the league behind Alex Ovechkin, sure to hit 50.

After next season, Laine needs a new deal and holds arbitration rights. That won’t be pretty.

For the Jets to obtain a goal-scorer of Laine’s calibre via trade is fiction. What Winnipeg can do is bolster a sense of team identity, stand by its position, and end this saga with a viable return before it’s too late. They’ve already watched others walk and have a hard enough time selling the Jets to skaters across the league, so it might be time to save face once and for all.

Image: NHL

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