Photo Credit: © Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Pilot’s Logbook: Patrik Laine

The Winnipeg Jets’ 2016-2017 disappointing season finally ended. While the extent of disappointment may be subjective from individual-to-individual dependent on expectations, fans without a single franchise playoff win prefer their seasons to carry some post-season excitement.

So, what went wrong? What went well? How do the Jets measure up against their competition? Which areas actually require improvement relative to others?

If your car breaks down, you need to know what is wrong with it prior to dropping cash to fix it. With that in mind, we continue our in-depth investigation on the Jets’ performance breaking down the team player-by-player from worst-to-best according to statistical impact, with some adjustments made by my own, personal analysis.

Up next: Patrik Laine.

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Basic Statistics

73 36 28 64 +7 26 9 14 0 0 5 1 204 17.6

The area that Laine provided the most value overall came from the box score statistics. The 6’5″ winger put up 36 goals, 28 assists, and 204 shots. There is not much more you could ask for an 18-year-old rookie (note: Auston Matthews was 19-years-old for the bulk of the season).

Goals Above Replacement

Goals Above Replacement data courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart. Reminder that GAR is an aggregate statistic, so it is not relative to games played or ice time.

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Goals Above Replacement (GAR) combines multiple statistics in terms of one currency, allowing one to estimate a player’s overall impact. It is imperfect, as it combines many imperfect statistics, but it is also a severely useful tool.

Laine was not a top contributor to the Jets overall, but only the big three provided more value at even strength. The bulk of Laine’s contributions came from even strength offense, which was predominately driven by his elite production. The good news of this means that Laine has so much room for growth.

Laine struggled in shot metrics at the start of the season, by a LOT. He tended to anchor his linemates. He struggled defensively and keeping from turning over the puck. These things should improve (and did improve) as he gets used to the North American game and his own size.

I am skeptical that Laine would ever have the defensive impact we see with Blake Wheeler in the graph, but we could see equatable impact overall through higher offense and power play contributions. Laine was only 18 last season, and the average NHL player peaks between 24-to-26 for GAR impact. That’s an average estimate of 6-to-8 years of improvement. Scary.

Advanced Metrics

TOI CF% REL CF% G60 A60 P60
1034 47.5 -2.60 1.22 1.11 2.33

As noted earlier, Laine struggled in improving the Jets shot differentials. It’s the largest area that Laine has room to grow in terms of positively impacting the Jets. As it currently stood, the Jets had a high tendency to allow more shots against than they created with the winger on the ice than on the bench. That is not optimal for a top-six forward.

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We mentioned that Laine should get better in this area, and there was evidence of his improvement throughout the season. That said, some of his improvement may be over exaggerated due to playing with Mathieu Perreault more often in the back half. Perreault is a player that everyone improves dramatically with, and Laine was no exception:


Visual is for minutes played in 2015-16 and first half of 2016-17 combined.

The graphic suggests a lot of one dimensionality in Laine’s game for the first half of the 2016-2017 season. Laine generated shots like a top-six forward, but after that he was fairly limited. His best secondary traits were building up plays with secondary and tertiary shot assists and influence on shot totals.

We should expect Laine’s ability to produce primary shot assists, or just passes in general, to improve as he matures. Currently the Jets told him to shoot as often as possible, because every fifth shot he took on net went in goal. As teams start to cover him more and adjust their game to track Laine, the incentives for him to produce plays will increase.

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The one area I worry about is with his shooting percentage. Laine produced a good number of shots and carried a very high shooting percentage. Players who do both are extremely rare. The ones who do usually perform well in all three areas of shot quality: shot location, pass movement, and individual skill. We all know and have seen that Laine has the individual skill, which is why most are hopeful for the future. That said, the above graph shows that Laine wasn’t placing himself in the right areas to receive passes that tend to be dangerous shots and Laine’s on-ice shot location was non-optimal as well.

Just to compare, here is the same graphs of two elite goal scorers, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin, just past their prime overlaying Laine’s graph:

In terms of zonal transitional plays, Laine did improve throughout the season. He finished off the year placing around team average in percentage of defensive zone possessions being successful exits, percentage of exits being with possession, percentage of entry attempts being successful, and percentage of entries being followed up with a successful pass.

Please support Corey Sznajder (@ShutDownLine) for his contributions in manually tracking microstatistics. He has a Patreon page where you can make a donation for his tireless work supporting the community. Also, give Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) a follow.

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Final Thoughts

It seems weird to say that a player who scored 36 goals in 73 games has a lot of room for improvement. Honestly, I would not be surprised if Laine scored fewer goals last year but still ended up being a better impact player overall. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he approached forty goals because he improved his overall game.

Laine produced a ton of goals, and his assist production was also fairly solid. Overall, Laine produced points like one of the league’s best despite only being 18-years-old.

It’s the other areas of the game where Laine needs development.

Laine produces shots, but he could work on producing more dangerous shots so he does not have to rely so much on his individual shooting talent. Laine can distribute the puck, but he could work on producing more shot passes to make him less predictable. He knows what to do when the puck is on his stick, but he could improve his transition and possession game to garner him and his linemates more opportunities to score and his opponents fewer.

He’s an exciting player, but things are only going to get better.

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All numbers courtesy of @NaturalStatTrick, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.

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