Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Winnipeg Jets.
Patrik Laine‘s season in 2018-19 will be defined by his monumental struggle after the month of November.
For context, November was a historic month for one of hockey’s most prolific snipers.
It began with a hat trick — and his 100th career goal — in his native Finland during the NHL’s Global Series at the start of the month.
A five-goal game followed as he sliced and diced his way through the St. Louis Blues, scoring seemingly at will.
By the time Dec. 1 rolled around, Laine had been named the league’s top player for the month prior, scoring an incredible 18 goals in 12 games — the most by any player in a month since Pavel Bure in 1994.
Projections of 50 goals had turned to 60. Some went as far as to suggest 70. Could he match Teemu Selanne’s 76? The sky appeared to be limit as he led the NHL with 21 goals in 24 games.
Laine would play all 82 games for the Jets. He’d go on to score just nine more times in the final 58 games, an abysmal stretch of time that included an abhorrent 15-game goalless drought at one point.
Laine looked disheveled and his confidence was back in the toilet. This time, telling the media as much didn’t afford him the same ability to snap out of the funk.
Instead, he wallowed.
[MORE: 2018-19 review | Maurice under pressure | Three Questions]
It wasn’t until the end of March before his slumber ended. The goals didn’t necessarily come, but Laine played in a much different way than what people in Winnipeg had grown accustomed to.
Whatever switch was flipped for him turned him into an aggressive forechecker who used his size to begin bullying opponents around.
It was all a little too late at this point, but as the Jets crashed out of the playoffs, Laine’s play stuck out.
If that will has remained in him throughout the offseason (and once he finally puts pen to paper on a new deal), it would be a massive boon to a club that could use that type of play from him.
Let’s remember that Laine is just 21 and has already scored 44 in a season. For Laine, 30 goals are considered a “down year” while others would kill to score even half that.
But what makes Laine so intriguing this year is that spell in which he finished last year.
If Laine turns into a dominant power forward, and coupled with that violent shot, the sky would once again become the limit.
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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck