Patrik Laine might be missing from the Winnipeg Jets’ training camp, but the spotlight was on him on Monday when he made bold comments on the coaching staff and his teammates in a Finnish interview.
Laine told Pekka Jalonen of Finland’s Iltalehti that he believes he would be a first-line player on most NHL teams, but instead has pushed to play lower in the Jets lineup.
“When you’re having contract negotiations, one thing always is who are you playing with,” Laine told the newspaper Iltalehti. “With the merits I have, somewhere else I’d have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everybody who understands hockey knows that.
“There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I’m told to play.”
His head coach Paul Maurice fired back on Tuesday evening with a great analogy that should resonated with the young player and fans of the team.
“Here, over the last two years, we’ve had three really, really young players,” Maurice said, referring to Laine, Kyle Connor and Nik Ehlers. “We can all do the math on that. That means two of them are going to be on one line and one’s going to be on the other. And he would be 100 percent right… there’s nine other forwards that wouldn’t mind playing a little left wing on that line. I get that. Everybody wants it.
“I’ll use my driver’s license analogy: nobody gets the keys at 14.”
Maurice isn’t the only member of the team who responded to Laine’s comments. Captain Blake Wheeler also talked about the comments and expressed his opinion on the matter.
“He’s a young kid that’s certainly had a lot of success in three years. He’s definitely not doing it by himself, I can guarantee you that.”
Laine is coming off a season that saw his goal total dip from 44 to 30. He scored 18 of them in 12 games in November, and had long slumps after that, which prompted Maurice to make many lineup changes to get the most out of his guys.
The RFA is still negotiating with the Jets on a new deal and is reportedly seeking a short-term bridge contract at the moment. With everything that is happening at the moment, that might be the best option for everyone involved…