Unfortunately, things are not going well for Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The struggling forward was a healthy scratch on Sunday night in Philadelphia. This comes on the heels of a benching of Laine and Johnny Gaudreau the game prior against Arizona in the third period. The Blue Jackets eventually lost the contest 3-2, extending their losing streak to seven games; now it’s eight with another loss Sunday. Is there an opportunity here for the Detroit Red Wings to test the trade market?
Laine is all too familiar with being benched; former Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, a surly bench boss, often sat the once elite-level scorer. Despite being a once elite-level goal scorer, Laine always displayed a fair number of defensive deficiencies, and his on-ice effort has sometimes come into question.
The two high-priced forwards remained glued to the bench on Friday, trailing the Coyotes 3-2 late in the third period despite a power play opportunity, which led to a bit of a media frenzy following the game. Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent had been promoted following the quick downfall of Mike Babcock, who was hired and fired this summer faster than you could say boo. In his postgame press conference, he had an interesting answer when asked about the power play chance.
“I coach a team,” Vincent said. “I don’t coach individuals. Those guys were going, they’re going to play. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”
The Blue Jackets elected to roll with Adam Fantilli and Kirill Marchenko over Gaudreau and Laine. Reading the tea leaves here, that comment speaks to a person’s character, and that type of character isn’t one Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman or head coach Derek Lalonde pursue.
The Detroit Red Wings should avoid Patrik Laine at all costs.
The pair of Laine and Gaudreau account for nearly $18.5 million in salary cap space per season. Both are under contract long-term. Laine’s current deal has two more years following this season, and Gaudreau is only in year two of a seven-year commitment. Gaudreau’s deal carries a cap hit of $9.75 million; he’s totaled two goals and seven points this season through 18 games. That follows a 74-point season a year ago in which he tallied 21 goals, still a far cry from the 40-goal, 115-point season he enjoyed with the Calgary Flames during a contract year.
Laine burst onto the scene with Winnipeg, scoring 110 goals and 184 points through his first three seasons. During that stretch, Laine tallied 44 power-play goals in 237 games; he’s notched 25 power-play goals, 90 overall, and 198 points over 234 games since. Laine has historically struggled analytically during even-strength play. Just once has he posted a positive Relative Corsi For Percentage. So far this season, he’s registered a -5.9 mark and a Corsi For Percentage of 43.3. Yikes.
So, there is still plenty of offense there, and Laine is just 25 years old, but his lack of defensive zone awareness and five-on-five effectiveness outweigh his power-play presence. That’s $8.7 million per season for a power play specialist, and he’s only producing half as much in that regard as he once did. No thanks. There are better options out there that the Detroit Red Wings may pursue if they become available as the season grows old with a more affordable cap hit.