What is Going on with Patrik Laine?

As Patrik Laine draws near to tying a personal career-low, when will the Finnish goal-scorer find his form again?
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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Zero points in his past six games. Averaging just two shots per game. Consistency? Only if we're talking about his consistency to being inconsistent.

What is going on with Patrik Laine?

It's crazy to think the last time Laine hit the scoresheet - Feb. 23rd against Chicago - Laine was the highlight player of the game with two goals and three points. It's been donuts ever since, 

It's frustrating to watch Laine. We know what he's capable of. At his best, he's a 40-goal scorer that can make even the best goalies look mortal. But other times, he looks so off the mark and out of place – but that's becoming all too common in his game. 

So, what's the deal?

It's easy to just blame the whole situation on John Tortorella based on how their relationship began, but Torts has given Laine every opportunity to shine, and he hasn't made it work. In 16 games with the Blue Jackets, Laine's 14:29 average ice time at 5-on-5 is first among all Blue Jackets forwards - only Oliver Bjorkstrand has broken the 14-minute barrier this season in Columbus.

Yeah, Tortorella has a tendency to get angsty with his top players. But we can't discredit the opportunities Torts has given Laine early on. Again, Laine's getting the ice time, but his recent results – or lack thereof – has shown that he's not trending in the right direction.

"He needs to get his legs moving more," Tortorella said on Saturday. "He tends to slow it down looking to pass a puck. I'd like to see him go north more."

The Blue Jackets are far from a high-scoring outfit, sitting 21st of 31 teams with 68 goals through 26 games, falling to 26th in goals-for-per-game with 2.62. Laine's linemate, Cam Atkinson, leads the way with 10 goals – two short of his total from a year ago and giving him an on-pace run of 22. Nothing incredible, especially for a player who had 41 goals two years ago, but having Laine in the lineup was supposed to help shake things up. Atkinson and Jack Roslovic have been good, but Laine hasn't picked up his end of the bargain on most nights, with seven of his 10 points coming in a five-game span.

The biggest thing Blue Jackets fans are looking for the team to add is a proper No. 1 center. The club had that but, you know, they moved him to get Laine. It's clear that the Blue Jackets need an upgrade down the middle because, in all due respect, Jack Roslovic - who was also sent to Columbus in the Laine deal - is not a top-line center in an ideal situation. He's been great with 14 points in 19 games played that makes him look more like the young player many expected, but the team needs some help down the middle.

A slow 3-6-1 run over the past 10 games has prompted questions about whether Tortorella – a man with just one non-qualifying playoff round series victory in five years – can provide any value moving forward in Columbus. Laine is a pending RFA with three 30-goal seasons in the past four years. 

At his best, Laine is still a very valuable contributor and can take a team on his back, but it's so hit or miss that you never know what version of the Finnish youngster you're getting. He's only 22, and his exploits with the puck have been well documented, but its consistency that's been an issue. If Laine fails to hit the scoresheet on Tuesday evening, his seven-game drought will tie his previous record set back just prior to the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Had Laine had improved athleticism, maybe we're talking about a power forward who can score 30 goals a year with ease. But he's not, and it can be a detriment to his overall playing ability. If Laine's confidence is shattered – and perhaps not having a viable playmaker by his side hurts – the Blue Jackets need to find a way to awaken his drive again. It's clear the Blue Jackets aren't in a good space right now, but getting Laine back to par has to be a top priority right now.

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