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Game #71 – Hawks vs. Jets Spotlight: Fear The Beard…As Gross As It May Be

As someone pointed out on Twitter, sadly we can’t find who, Patrik Laine looks like he would stand and ask you three questions before you could cross his bridge. We all do stupid things as teenagers, and growing really bad facial hair is one of them. It’s like a new toy you have to try out. Clearly, Laine is in this phase. It also doesn’t help that Finnish people are just weird to begin with, and gives him a truly creepy, this guy plays with toys at home vibe.

Something Laine is also doing that’s incredibly stupid as a teenager is the rate at which he scores.

Off the top, Laine has 77 goals before his 20th birthday. No one’s bested that in 29 years, which was Jimmy Carson. The only other better mark as a teenager since 1980 is Dale Hawerchuk’s 85, also in Winnipeg, in 1983. No one else in 38 years has scored more goals at 18 and 19 than Laine. His two-season mark is better than Crosby, Stamkos, Jagr, Kovalchuk, everyone else. And Hawerchuk and Jimmy Carson played in an era when goalies were essentially just inflatable flappy-arm guys you see at car dealerships (and the Half Acre brewery, for some reason. Trust us).

Laine also converts at an extraordinary rate. His career 18.7 shooting-percentage is second since the Great Bettman 2005 Lockout, behind only Anson Carter. And you’ll recall Carter racked most of that up playing with the Sedins, so it didn’t involve much more than standing near the crease and letting the Children of The Corn ping pucks off of him (The Nuno Gomes Policy, for you soccer fans). This is amongst players who have played 100 games. It blows the greatest scorer of the generation, or possibly any generation, Alex Ovechkin’s career mark of 12.7 out of the water.

What’s really frightening is that Laine doesn’t shoot nearly as often as some of the other premier goal scorers in the league. He ranks 27th in total shots. He ranks 71st in shots per 60 at even-strength. He ranks 33rd in attempts per 60 at even-strength. And yet he’s 5th in goals per 60 at even-strength.

Even on the power play you won’t see him dominating the shots and attempts there. He’s 16th in shots per 60 while on the advantage, 21st in attempts per 60 on the power play, but you won’t find anyone who scores more often on the PP than Laine. So the question the league should be asking is what happens if he starts firing pucks at Ovechkin-like rates for a season? Just so you have some idea, Ovechkin’s 298 shots with Laine’s 19.7% SH% this year would see Laine with 58 goals already.

Perhaps one thing holding Laine back in terms of the amount of rubber he can violently hurl at goaltenders is that he has yet to be a dominant possession player. Whereas Ovechkin and Stamkos and Crosby and Malkin have always consistently been above-water in Corsi-percentages and comfortably ahead of their team-rates, Laine has yet to do that in two seasons. Getting ahead of the team-rate in Winnipeg is tricky because they’ve actually been a very good possession team the past two years, but Laine hasn’t been above water either season. If he spent more time in the offensive zone, his goal-scoring numbers would simply be pornographic. You would think playing with Ehlers and Little would make for better possession numbers, but it just hasn’t.

Of course, some of this is going to make for quite the headache for the Jets front office. They’re looking at giving Laine, Trouba, Wheeler, and Hellebuyck new paper over the next two summers, and Toby Enstrom and Tyler Myers are the only big-ticket items coming off the books in that time. While Laine will only be an RFA, the Jets are not going to get him on a bridge-deal you wouldn’t think. While offer-sheets just don’t happen, tossing three or four first-round picks at a historical scorer like Laine might actually make sense for a team.

Laine’s release already is up there with the best of all-time, and takes no backseat to Ovie’s or Artemi Panarin’s. If Mike Bossy played in this era, this very well might be what it would have looked like.

 

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