Pekka Jalonen of the Finnish publication Iltalehti (Evening News) revealed his belief why Patrik Laine wished to leave the Winnipeg Jets. It was because of issues with fellow stars on the team.
When Patrik Laine was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Winnipeg Jets fans were ecstatic. Almost immediately, the then 18-year-old became a fan favorite, as he scored 36 goals in his rookie season. He scored 44 goals in his second season and grew even more popular with the fans.
However, according to the report his relationships with two of the Jets’ other star players were partly to blame for his desire to leave Winnipeg. These players were the team captain and right winger, Blake Wheeler, and the team’s number one center, Mark Scheifele.
According to inside information that ltalehti staffers gathered, Wheeler felt his position as the team’s top right winger was threatened by Laine, whose original position was right wing. He was also not enthusiastic that Laine’s popularity could possibly rival that of Teemu Selanne, who had played with the previous incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.
Meanwhile, Scheifele made it clear to everyone that he preferred to play with Wheeler than with Laine.
According to the report, outside the locker room, both Wheeler and Scheifele would make things difficult for Laine and talk behind his back. Coach Paul Maurice would not interfere and just let Wheeler and Scheifele lead the team the way they wanted. Thus, the situation in Winnipeg was difficult for Laine.
After the trade took place on Saturday, January 23, Wheeler partially admitted that he had handled some things poorly with Laine. “Maybe I could have communicated a little better instead of being frustrated.” Wheeler, of course, didn’t detail what exactly happened behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, Scheifele remained silent. When the Jets faced the Ottawa Senators later that night, Scheifele, in a interview, did not mention either Laine or his departure from the team.
Jets’ Head Coach, Paul Maurice, however, admitted making mistakes with Laine. He stated he tried to create an environment for each player where they could feel they could be at their best. But in the case of Laine, Maurice admitted his failure and took full responsibility for it.
During the summer prior to the 2019-20 season, Laine had signed a two-year contract extension. At the end of the deal, he would be a restricted free agent. Laine was hoping he would leave Winnipeg at the end of that deal, if not sooner.
Now that he has been traded, the Blue Jackets are trying to work out a new contract extension with him. The Blue Jackets’ General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, has had a previous relationship with Laine from a Finnish World Championship team.
Jalonen, the reporter from Iltalehti, noticed how the Jets have lost so many players in recent years, including Evander Kane, Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine, all of whom wanted out of Winnipeg. He pointed out that Byfuglien even ended his career in the middle of the contract period. Hence, Jalonen wonders if “there is something rotten in the club led by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and in the locker room led by Wheeler.”
By Diane Doyle