It is no secret that Patrik Laine’s agent requested a trade from the Winnipeg Jets for the star winger. At the time there were rumblings that Mark Scheifele didn’t want Laine to be his right winger instead of Blake Wheeler. This was an allegation from the summer of 2019, but it still holds true today it seems.
Wheeler is getting older and really starting to show his age. While he is still a good player, a solid argument could be made that at least offensively Laine would have been a better fit on the top line, but according to Finnish sources (and reputable ones according to Patrik Bexall of Habs Eyes on the Prize), Scheifele and Wheeler essentially demanded to play on the first line and Paul Maurice acquiesced to their demands.
There is a lot to unpack here. First of all, rumours of this sort have been around for a while and while they might not all be true, the spirit of them all remain the same. I do want to clarify that my reading of it is the term “threw sand at Laine’s skates” was not literally throwing sand at his skates, but the idea that they were making it a lot harder for him to progress no matter how well he was playing.
Most of this should be falling at the feet of Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff. It seems like there was something off in the room for a while. Players frequently leaving the team disgruntled does not reflect well on the team and that falls not on the players, but those who allow the players to have that amount of power. Maurice could have handled things better, not by being softer on Laine, but by actually running the team the way he wants to and not at the whims of the players. Of course players want to play with the best players, but it should be up to the coach to determine who plays with whom to best benefit the team. It sounds like that does not exactly happen in Winnipeg.
For what it is worth, Laine came to Winnipeg ready to go this season and looked great when healthy. It did not seem like the situation with Pierre-Luc Dubois who looked checked out with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Laine was done, but not out the door.
So where do the Jets go from here? Well, Laine left the city on seemingly good terms, but both Wheeler and Maurice expressed regret over how they handled things with Laine. That points to the idea that things were not always handled as well as they should have been and changes could have been made before Laine requested a trade. But the Jets really need to look at the mirror when they see the early departures. Something is not right and needs to be fixed. With so many young players leaving the Jets, the onus needs to be on the Jets to figure out how to retain them because at this point it seems like it is an internal factor pushing players away instead of an external one like the weather.