The 2018-19 season was not a great one for the Winnipeg Jets. Sure, they finished second in the Central Division with 99 points, but after what they accomplished in 2017-18, something just did not seem right this time around. In this series, we will take a look at some key Jets’ players who may or may not have been part of the problem in their up and down 2018-19 campaign.
Related: Jets Report Cards 2018-19: Mark Scheifele
Patrik Laine had an up and down 2018-19 season, but there were definitely more downs than ups. He struggled with his consistency in all areas of the ice. He went on many cold stretches without scoring and was a liability in the defensive zone more often than not. The majority of his season was played on the second line, but he also saw brief time on the first line and at times, was demoted to the third line.
Laine finished with an abysmal minus-24 rating last season, his worst plus/minus as a Jet. He found himself in the penalty box a lot more as well, finishing the season with 48 penalty minutes — his previous high was 26 penalty minutes — and his shooting percentage was also a career-worst 12.2%.
One of the bright spots this past season for Laine was his career month of November where we saw him rack up 18 goals — including a five-goal performance against the St. Louis Blues that resulted in one lucky Sobey’s/Safeway shopper winning over $1 million.
Related: Laine’s November a Month to Remember
To better understand just how amazing this month of hockey was, let’s take a closer look. Laine finished with 18 goals and one assist in 12 games; his shooting percentage was a crazy 33.3% on 54 shots — the most of any month by a long shot. The 21-year-old also had seven power play goals — his next best month was three power play goals in October. He also finished the season with just three game-winning goals, all of which came in November.
He is the first 2.0 Jet to score five goals in a game and
just the third NHL player to do so since 1996 when Sergei Fedorov scored five
goals for the Detroit Red Wings. He is just the third player in NHL history to
score five goals in one game before their 21st birthday (Wayne Gretzky and Don
Murdoch were the other two).
Laine, unfortunately, could not keep the hot streak going into December. He actually was not able to keep much of anything going from that point on, scoring just nine goals from December to April and quickly losing confidence.
Momentum a Good Sign For 2019-20?
To go along with the month of November, Laine also had a very strong playoff performance in the teams’ six games versus the Blues. He scored in three of the six games and finished with four points. Paul Maurice had some strong words for Laine after game four, saying, “Game four was the best game he has played as a Winnipeg Jet.”
Laine was finally contributing in more ways than just scoring goals. He was playing with more energy, more physicality, better defensively, and the points were still there. The 2019 playoffs really were some of the most well-rounded hockey games he has played during his three seasons with Winnipeg. His game looked complete and he actually looked like he cared for the first time in a long time.
Whether he can carry that momentum into the following season or not remains to be seen, but I personally believe we’ll see a better Laine in 2019-20 than we did in 2018-19. He still put up 50 points last season and showed up in the playoffs when it mattered most. Fans can agree he still needs to improve his game away from the puck and work on his consistency in general. As mentioned earlier, he has shown glimpses of these improvements, but he will need to show them throughout an entire season to take his game to the next level.
Overall, this was Laine’s worst season as a Jet. Despite November and the playoff series versus the Blues, he was almost invisible at times (or visible for the wrong reasons). His disinterest and lack of effort were also alarming last season, but it was revealed that he played the majority of the 2018-19 season with a back injury. Did this affect his compete level? Affect his drive to win puck battles? Affect his willingness to play physical? It very well could have.
Laine also played the postseason with a groin injury, stating it was, “nothing I couldn’t handle,” and that neither injury would require surgery. Many people are left wondering why he did not sit out at any point of the season to heal his back. He said in an interview, “It’s not an excuse for me, I was still able to play and I was able to play good.”
Related: Patrik Laine: Bridge Deal or Long-Term Contract?
Will these injuries hamper his contract talks? Are the Jets now wary of his health going into the 2019-20 season? There are still a few unanswered questions, as we all know — he is still without a contract and talks have been very slow to non-existent for a while now. Here’s to hoping a deal gets done over the next month and we see a healthy Laine in the Jets lineup on opening night.