The Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World was a series of commercials that took the Earth by storm, particularly because he was fascinating. This season, Patrik Laine has had a similar effect on the Blue Jackets fanbase. The personalities of the last Blue Jackets core were all shipped out in an exodus over the last twelve months, which left a gaping hole. Laine has stepped in and has taken the title of the Most Interesting Man in Columbus.
Laine came to Columbus in a highly publicized trade for center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The trade on its own was fascinating, involving the second (Laine) and third (Dubois) overall picks from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft swapping teams. Not only did they switch teams, but the higher of the two picks needed a sweetener – in Jack Roslovic – to acquire the lower. In that trade, Laine went from being just another one of a group of star forwards to being the touted top talent of a young forward corps.
Laine is Incredibly Talented
The amount of 23 year-old players who already have 150 goals under their belt is extremely small. Laine is a goal-scoring machine, and although he’s slowed a little in recent years, he took the league by storm by becoming the fourth-youngest player to score 100 goals.
Neither he nor Dubois showed what they were really made of in the pandemic-shortened season. Laine’s production dropped off playing in a system that he wasn’t used to, and he found his way to the doghouse, being benched on a few occasions. His 10 goals and 21 points through 45 games in Ohio were not what Blue Jackets brass expected when they traded for the budding star.
However, the young man has been on fire to start this season, so far bringing his production level up significantly from last year’s. Being a point-per-game player through the first 10 percent of the season. He has also been a big moment performer, scoring two nearly identical overtime goals in the Blue Jackets’ first two forays into extra frame hockey.
Although, maybe most surprising to start the season is his playmaking. It has been sublime for a player often touted as a one-trick-pony as a sniper. His consistency has also been better, putting up points in six of his first eight outings. In his first year in Ohio, he was a streaky scorer at best, going on several multi-game scoring droughts.
Laine’s Got Incredible Style
Finns are known as being one of the more eccentric nationalities of the Scandinavian region. They have one of the hardest languages to learn, which many believe is a reflection of their unique personalities. Laine is no exception to that rule.
His look at this year’s home opener was iconic — the shot of a smiling Laine heading down the tunnel with his almost white moustache with Gazerbeam-esque sunglasses has been shared too many times to count. It’s found a place in the meme world, and has been altered and reused in many different ways. It electrified the fanbase, and has inspired Jack-O-Lanturns and cardboard cutouts, among many other things. Laine told CBJ Radio that we should expect to see more from his closet. Blue Jackets Twitter seems primed to be loaded with pictures of the flashy Finn on his way to the locker room in the future.
I like to wear different kind of stuff. I don’t want to look like everybody else and I think that’s great for the game.Laine told CBJ Radio in an interview on Oct. 20, 2021
Style also extends to class, and Laine is also, by all accounts, a super nice guy. The social media-verse is loaded with photos of Laine post-game and out with the fans. Anecdotes of how Laine has “thrilled” fans in post-game meetings are not hard to find. The forward makes himself accessible to fans in a way that is ultimately quite endearing.
Laine is the Best Interview
For the last two decades, fans were been glued to their televisions of coach John Tortorella press conferences to see how the coach would react to questions from reporters. He brought that personality to Columbus as coach for six seasons, being the interview that fans couldn’t wait to watch. Now he’s gone, and that mantle has been handed to Laine.
Laine has a brutal honesty that hits a bit differently than the Tortorella brand of honesty. Tortorella had a tendency to get argumentative with reporters over the quality of their line of questioning, or even outright leave a presser if he wasn’t thrilled. Laine’s honesty is answering the questions that reporters never get answers to. A perfect example is when Laine called out his former coach to a media organization.
“Tortorella did not give freedom to anyone. Forwards want to create offensively. You have to ‘cheat’ a bit if you want to become a goal king. It is not possible if the coaches think differently. But I do as they tell me […] I do not even want to be like everyone else. I am who I am and do things my way. Everyone should be given the opportunity to be themselves. Then, of course, you have to play within the team’s system. I think it’s stupid not to use my potential. But then it’s another matter what the coaches think.”Laine told a Finnish Media organization, aamulehti.fi. (translated quote from ‘Blue Jackets’ star Patrik Laine criticizes John Tortorella’s coaching style;’ Columbus Dispatch; 7/15/21)
At the end of the day, Laine’s personality is against the grain of the typical in hockey culture. He’ll give more colour to his answers than a traditional hockey interview. We’ve all heard pretty much the same generic answers to questions regurgitated from players across the league. Laine won’t give you a “get pucks to the net” answer. He’ll tell you what’s really on his mind.
Laine is an Enigma
Maybe the most fascinating part of the Dos Equis man is that he always leaves you wanting more from a personality perspective. Laine is remarkably quiet, but still finds a way to stand out in a crowd. We’ve merely gotten a taste of the full Laine personality in the last month or so – since he’s started to loosen up in the new season. It will be most interesting to watch this man grows over the next season and more. Columbus has a true star-personality on their hands, now we’ll see how that personality translates on-ice since he’s been given more license to show it under the new regime in Ohio.
Writer covering Columbus Blue Jackets.
Also a radio personality and reporter currently based on Vancouver Island.