This is a series of posts previewing Flames players prior to the new season that will run throughout the month of September; today, we begin with the players that had a bit of a rough go of things last season--whether they were injured, down on their luck, or just didn't deliver as expected. Today's player is the much-maligned Sex Panther Olli Jokinen.
#13 / Center / Calgary Flames
Dec 05, 1978
Olli Jokinen's arrival, departure, and subsequent return to the Flames has elicited confusion, frustration, rage, anxiety, depression, nausea, and a whole host of other negative reactions from the team's fan base over the course of the last year and a half. After a hot start faded into a lengthy cold streak following his acquisition from the Coyotes last March, fans could only hope for a return to form of sorts from the 5.5M dollar man their club had paid so dearly for in 2009-10. Despite evidence that Olli's pairing with Jarome Iginla was tenuous at best and that the two struggled to hold their own against the opposition's best players, Brent Sutter threw them over the boards together in such situations time and time again for much of last season. While there's no question these circumstances affected Jokinen's production to some degree, the big Finn wasn't exactly at the top of his game for a myriad of reasons.
Jokinen seems like a textbook case of higher shot volume=more goals and more points. Having never reached 20 goals prior to his fifth NHL season, Olli's shot totals ballooned to 240, 280, 351, 351, and 341 over his next five seasons--an average of 313 shots/season--and his shooting percentage increased accordingly. Jokinen shot an average of 11.2% during those years for a total of 104 ES goals (173 all together). Over the past two seasons, Jokinen's shot totals have dropped to his lowest since the beginning of that five-year period; he managed 236 shots on net in each of the past two seasons split between the Coyotes, Flames, and Rangers. Still a pretty respectable number, but nowhere in range of some of the league's most prolific shooters; Alex Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, and Henrik Zetterberg all fired 300+ shots on net last season.
There's no doubting that the percentages were kind to at least three of the aforementioned players last season, but that often comes with the territory. Olli's SH% didn't really start to hit the skids until last season, when he shot a combined 6.4% with the Flames and Rangers, 3.5% below his career average and good for 15 goals on 236 shots. This indicates that luck wasn't always on his side last season (as he'd surely be the first to tell you), but his fairly normal PDO of 99.9 tells us that luck wasn't everything. Another factor contributing to his downward spiral is the lack of powerplay points that used to pad his totals; in his last 30-goal campaign with the Panthers (07-08), Jokinen scored 18 goals and 33 points (46.5% of his total offence) with the man advantage, spending an average of 3:48/game on the PP. In 2005-06, Olli saw nearly five minutes of powerplay ice per game. Last season, that dropped to 2:46/game, with 30% of his offence (15 points) coming with the extra man; at ES, Jokinen scored at a pace of 1.69 points/60. Olli could certainly help his situation if he were to take fewer penalties than he drew, however that is an area that the club as a whole needs to improve upon this season.
As is the case with the majority of players on the wrong side of 30, once things start to go south, their ability to recover is not quite the same as it once was. Jokinen still has good hands, an above average shot, and is capable of using his size to his advantage; the likelihood of having Alex Tanguay on his line should remove some of the pressure to be the line's playmaker, so if he can put himself in a position to shoot more often and the percentages normalize, good things could happen. I don't think 20 goals is unachievable for the Joker this season.