After the Jets drafted him in 2016, Patrik Laine set career highs and scored highlight-reel goals over four seasons in Manitoba’s capital.
The Winnipeg Jets are in the middle of their biggest fight of the season, and they are losing heavily. Likely needing to win 13 more games this season in order to qualify for the postseason – or at least pick up points in 16 – the odds get much worse when one looks at how many games remain on the team’s schedule.
Winnipeg needs to win over 80 percent of its games to even have a chance. And that is just to keep up with the high-rolling Dallas Stars, ever-dangerous Nashville Predators, and always contentious Vegas Golden Knights.
According to the official Winnipeg Jets Media Guide, the expected record in order to crack to the postseason has been written up as 14-2-1.
Right now, they are not keeping up, and that all stems from taking nights off.
Any idea who might be a helpful player on a team desperate for goal-scoring and power play success?
How about Patrik Laine?
Oh right, Winnipeg does not have that player anymore.
After drafting the second-coming of the Finnish Flash back in 2016, the Jets saw Laine set career highs and score highlight-reel goal after highlight-reel goal over four seasons in Manitoba’s capital. But then, the relationship between Laine, coaching staff, management, fans and teammates seemingly grew sour. He wasn’t given the time or opportunities that he felt he deserved.
So on January 23, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pulled the trigger on a trade that saw the Jets send both Laine and fellow disgruntled winger Jack Roslovic to Ohio in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Neither of the two deal headliners had much to offer over the course of the 2020-21 season, with Roslovic taking the honours as the top-performing player in the deal last year.
But this season has been a very different story for both players, and even Roslovic, per se.
Laine has produced at over a point-per-game rate with 25 goals and 48 points in 45 games, while Dubois has also found 25 goals and added 25 assists for an even 50 points in 64 games. Dubois is also in the league’s top-10 when it comes to penalty minutes (90).
It has been a revitalizing year for both players, while Jack Roslovic has slightly slipped back to old habits now playing in his hometown of Columbus.
For the first time in 14 months, Laine and Roslovic have returned to the city that drafted them 2nd and 25th overall in back-to-back years, respectively. The two aren’t exactly sure what to expect, but they are ready to embrace the response given by the expected sell-out crowd at Canada Life Centre.
“We’ll see what the reaction is going to be,” Laine said in advance of his return. “I have no clue if they’re going to be booing us or if they’re going to like having us back. Who knows? I don’t know. We’ll see… It’ll be exciting to go back. It’ll just be fun to see and play against old teammates. To play in front of those fans again, that’ll be great. To see everybody at the rink.”
Never one to fret about his on-ice interactions or reception, for Laine, it’s the simple things that have him a bit worried.
“I’m kinda nervous about where to go because I’ve never been in the visitor’s room there,” he laughed. “But it’ll be fun. Like I said, playing in front of these great fans again, it’ll be fun. I enjoyed every minute of playing here. Because of the fans. This is one of the best places I’ve ever played hockey when I played here.”
And according to Laine, Friday, March 25 has been a date written down for a very long time.
“Yeah. It’s definitely been marked on my calendar. Especially just playing Winnipeg,” he said. “Obviously didn’t get the chance to play them when they were in Columbus. I’ve waited for this day for a while. Not so much playing Winnipeg, but just coming back here and playing in front of these great fans again. It’ll be fun.”
Like Laine, Roslovic is also excited for his return to the Great White North. Having skated in 180 games for the Jets, he knows the venue and the fans like any other. What he remembers most is the passion.
“It’ll be cool, it’ll be different,” he said. “I played a lot of games there. It’ll be fun to see the arena and see the city and see the fans, see former teammates. Yeah, I’m excited.”
Laine, on the other hand, doesn’t miss the city. He just misses the people and their love of the game.
“It was one of the coolest places I’ve ever played,” Laine said. “Full house, every game. The playoffs were one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced. The great fans, I definitely miss. Hockey is kind of like a religion there. There’s not much going on, so hockey is so big. I definitely enjoyed that.”
And in terms of his ex-teammates? Laine jokingly warned his old buddy Nikolaj Ehlers to ‘keep his head up’ on the ice. Despite playing in a different conference, he has been able to keep track of some of his old friends and their recent on-ice performances.
“It’s not really my job to try to analyze why are they where they are right now,” he said. “Just happy for the guys, a lot of my good buddies, they’re having really good years. I wish them all the best. Just not tonight.”
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