Jets' Patrik Laine apologizes after throwing Bryan Little under the bus

Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers (#27) celebrates with Patrik Laine (#29) and Bryan Little (#18) after scoring against the Dallas Stars in February 2017. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers (#27) celebrates with Patrik Laine (#29) and Bryan Little (#18) after scoring against the Dallas Stars in February 2017. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Things were said. Those things were translated. And now, Patrik Laine is sorry.

A few days after the Winnipeg Jets sniper’s negative comments about his linemates caused quite the stir through the hockey world, Bryan Little revealed that the 21-year-old has since apologized and some of what he said was misconceived.

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“He was saying sorry and apologizing for just the way I think it was interpreted, which I kind of understood before I even talked to him,” explained Little on Thursday, according to Tim Campbell of NHL.com. “I know Patty well enough to know that he's not someone that's going to purposely say negative things, especially about his teammates.”

Earlier this week — while training in Europe as contract negotiations between himself and the Jets continue — Laine chatted with Pekka Jalonen, a sportswriter for the Finnish news outlet Iltalehti. His comments were then translated and really didn’t paint some of his teammates in a positive light.

“With the merits I have, somewhere else I'd have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everybody who understands hockey knows that,” stated Laine to Jalonen. “There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I'm told to play.”

If you were Bryan Little or Nikolaj Ehlers, it would be understandable if you took those words as a bit of a slap in the face. However, after receiving a text from Laine and getting on the phone with one another, it appears that everything has been sorted out.

“Sometimes those things are misunderstood,” Little said, per Campbell. “I knew right away he wants to play with the best players. That's the kind of the way he was saying it. And yeah, [Mark Scheifele] and [Blake Wheeler] are our best players and I'd like to play with those guys, too... He just wants to be one of our go-to guys.”

Laine has played the majority of his first three NHL campaigns on Little’s right wing with Ehlers rounding out the Jets’ second line on the left. However, Laine has had stints on the team’s top unit alongside Scheifele and Wheeler. The second-overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft has also seen plenty of time with the two on Winnipeg’s top power-play unit, where he mans the left point.

“I feel like I know him well enough to know what he's trying to say and where he's coming from,” Little said, per Campbell. “The fact that he texted me confirmed what kind of guy he is, he's a great guy.”

From the outside looking in, there were a few factors that came together to result in this situation. First, the translation of a statement isn’t ever going to capture the true spirit of what is said by someone. However, the Finn did say things along the same lines of what was translated and that may be due to the difficult bargaining spot that he currently finds himself in.

One season after finding the back of the net 44 times and collecting 70 points, he scored 30 goals (18 of them in November alone) and 50 points while sporting a minus-24 rating in 2018-19. With that regression in production, negotiating a deal that will pay him top dollar has become more difficult. As a result, it wouldn’t be crazy to point a few fingers in an attempt to explain why the numbers aren’t where they used to be — especially when large stacks of cash are on the line.

Unfortunately for Little and Ehlers, they were caught in the crosshairs of business. And unfortunately for the Jets, it doesn’t sound like this little sports soap opera has Laine any closer to returning to North America.

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