Patrik Laine proves he's still very much a Winnipeg Jet

It’s more likely than not that Patrik Laine’s time in Winnipeg ends with a lopsided trade that tilts favourably toward the buyer. That’s usually what happens when an agent issues a trade request. But while what lies ahead seems regrettably predetermined, perhaps entirely by the Laine camp, it doesn’t mean the Finnish sniper can’t be a force for the Jets in the meantime.

Emphatically, Laine answered the question of if his preference to move on from the Jets would hinder his ability to perform at the peak of his abilities in the team’s 4-3 opening-night win over the Calgary Flames.

WINNIPEG, MB - JANUARY 14: Patrik Laine #29 of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates after scoring the overtime winner for a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames at the Bell MTS Place on January 14, 2021 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)
Patrik Laine is still a Winnipeg Jet. And he acted that way in a win over the Flames. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

He scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, in a three-point night that showcased his colossal offensive abilities.

This is how he capped it off:

Beating a netminder like Jacob Markstrom clean from high-grade shooting opportunities twice in the win, not to mention setting up Kyle Connor with a brilliant cross-zone feed on a power play, this has always been the easy stuff for Laine. What hasn’t come as natural in his four completed seasons is consistent engagement, to be relied on each and every night to spill everything he has on the ice and for his team.

That’s why the other notables in the win over the Flames are just as encouraging as his unfettered ability to fire pucks into the back of the net. Only a referee’s discretion prevented Laine from earning a Gordie Howe hat trick, a badge of honour reserved for those who score, set up a goal and fight — all in the same game.

Arriving at the defence of Connor, who was pasted face first into the boards by Noah Hanifin, Laine took on all parties in a melee, landing at least one clean punch on the top of Matthew Tkachuk’s head.

Laine exited the lengthy scrum with a torn sweater and blood leaking from his gums, shouting back at Tkachuk for inserting himself in the conflict between himself and Hanifin before heading down the tunnel.

What’s clear is that despite itching for a new opportunity, Laine still takes his responsibilities as a member of the Jets seriously — as proven by the reason he provided for confronting Hanifin and taking on all comers in the fallout.

“If you hit one of our top guys like that, someone needs to step up,” Laine said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, who gets hit. Teammates have to step up.”

Though it might not have been completely selfless in nature.

“I was pissed off because that would have been a Gordie Howe hat trick. That one time when I drop my gloves, I get a two-minute penalty. So that’s kind of embarrassing,” Laine added.

Laine’s back was up when he showed up, on time, for the start of the Jets’ abbreviated training camp.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” is what he said, in his efforts to defend himself.

And as long as he is, the Jets are better for it.

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