Blue Jackets’ Laine Immediately Showing Why He Was Missed

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prodigal son has returned. After dynamic winger Patrik Laine was put on the injured reserve (IR) for the second time in the first quarter of the season, he’s back. This last stint on IR was a more extended hiatus, out for eight games – which is almost a tenth of the season. Injuries have plagued the Finnish forward since he was traded to the Jackets in 2020. He was limited to 45 games in his first season and 56 games last season. That trend looks like it will continue since with 13 games missed already, he can now only play in a maximum of 69 games.

What hurts most about the constant injuries is that he leaves a gaping hole in the lineup due to how valuable and beloved he is to the Blue Jackets organization and their fanbase. This is why there was an outpouring of excitement when it was announced that he would be back in time to play against the team that drafted him – the Winnipeg Jets. Laine did not disappoint and immediately showed why he was missed.

Laine Was Missed on the Ice

Let’s start by talking about the immediate impact that the Finn made on the ice. After eight games missed, it only took him 6:48 to get back on the scoreboard, quickly finishing off a beautiful cross-seam pass from Johnny Gaudreau. Then he scored again, early in the second period.

Now, is Laine going to score two goals every game? Most certainly not. It’s worth being argued that he had such an impact in his first game back because he wanted to stick it to the Jets who traded him a couple of seasons ago, but that doesn’t completely discount his performance. Going almost a month without playing and then immediately scoring a couple goals is incredible.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Laine’s start to the season had been on the slow side. With only four points through his first eight appearances, he was struggling as much as the rest of the Blue Jackets early on. However, if you remember back to last season, it was after his extended hiatus due to injury and personal leave that he really turned his game around and became the team’s best player. It would not surprise me to see a similar metamorphosis this season now that he’s finally settling in.

Related: THW Blue Jacket Writers’ Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

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At the beginning of the season, my prediction for the Blue Jackets’ most valuable player was Laine and that was for one reason. There is absolutely no one else on the roster who brings what he does. His shot is one of few in the NHL in that upper echelon along with Alexander Ovechkin, where he can blast a shot from any spot and find the smallest hole to beat a goalie. He’s also an elite playmaker, which is not something that should fly under the radar. His ability to be a lethal finisher or distributor at any moment is what makes him as valuable on the ice as he is.

Laine Missed Off the Ice

Of course, the other thing that makes Laine so beloved to Blue Jackets players and fans alike is his personality, which he put on display in a post-game interview with Bally Sports. The question asked to him was involving scoring his first goals against his former team to which Laine responded, “Now Columbus is the only team in the league I haven’t scored against. Hopefully it stays like that until my career is done.”

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It was a small comment in a larger answer, but it’s little things like that which have endeared him to a Blue Jacket fanbase that has been oft neglected by its star players. Laine’s constant words of affirmation to the city of Columbus and the Blue Jackets organization always bring positive vibes.

Those vibes are more noticeable now considering how particularly negative the fan and media perspective has been this season. Only one game back for Laine and morale seems to be up – at least in the short term. We’ll see how it holds up after the team’s next big loss.

Blue Jackets are Better with Laine

The Blue Jackets are better with Laine. It’s an obvious statement. Eight games is a long time to be without one of your top players – especially one as valuable as he is. Now it’s time that Jackets fans touch wood and hope that this is the last they see of Laine on the injured reserve, so they can finally see what he and Gaudreau are capable of when paired together over an extended period of time.

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