Going Forward in 09/10 - Olli Jokinen


Darryl Sutter finally landed a shiny bauble he'd been coveting for years at the deadline in March. Olli Jokinen cost the club Matthew Lombardi a first round draft pick and, ultimately, a bunch of cap space that proved to be more valuable than the player himself down the stretch. Heading into next season, Jokinen is the second highest paid forward on the club, so it goes without saying that he has to have a good year in order for the team to squeeze value out of both his cap hit and the price they paid to acquire him.

Jokinen had a fairly dreadful season last year for a guy with his price tag. His 29 goal total was the worst he'd managed since 2003-04, while you have to go back to 2001-02 to find a lesser point total than the 57 he cobbled together in 08/09. His ESP/60 rating was a mediocre 1.81 and his PP production efficiency wasn't anything to write home about either (3.93). In PHX, like almost everyone else on the team, he was well in the red in terms of corsi (-162). None of this is good news.

However, A lot of that can be disregarded as a guy having a bad year in bad circumstances. And that's true - moreso than just playing on a lousy team. I looked at the starting locations for everyone in PHX last year and Olli was actually buried a bit by Gretzky in the desert: -80 (offensive-defensive draws) in terms of zone start. Of the 418 draws Jokinen took in Coyotes colors, only 81 of them (!) or 19% came in the offensive zone. To channel Austin Powers for a moment - that's not Jokinen's bag, baby. Dude can't win face-offs and he's not all that compelling at the wrong end of the ice. I don't know if Gretzky was sheltering some of the other kids in Phoenix or what, but that starting zone figure suggests he didn't really know what kind of player he had in Jokinen. Scorer? Yes. Veteran? Sure. Guy who can play through tough circumstances? Not so much. Heck, Jokinen even spent a good deal of time skating with Daniel Carcillo and Peter Mueller at even strength. Yikes.

Things didn't exactly turn around for Jokinen in Calgary. He went scoreless during the last 13 games of the season (you know, that portion of time when the club really needed scoring from it's still healthy and active players) and his post-season wasn't much better besides a single notable performance. That said, some of his underlying numbers certainly improved. In his time as a Flame his zone start was +21 and his corsi rate was +56. To put that latter number into context, Jokinen played about 303 ES minutes with Calgary, meaning his corsi rate per 60 minutes of ice was a decent +11.09. That rate isn't in the Moss, Glencross or Langkow range, but it's still clear of Bertuzzi and even Jarome Iginla.

I am marginally encouraged by these findings. In PHX, Jokinen was played in a role counter to his nature and it killed him. In Calgary, and in better circumstances, his corsi (+11.09) and ESP/60 (1.98/60) improved, which points to potentially better things next year...assuming the team continues to move the puck forward as well as it did last season AND Brent Sutter deploys Jokinen in a sheltered, scoring role, where he belongs. If used properly, I can see Jokinen's counting stats getting back into the shiny bauble range again (30+ goals, 70+ points), which is all the Flames will likely need out of him.

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