Those guys appreciate Jokinen, so should we. Photo: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

An Appreciation of Olli Jokinen

So, coming into last night’s game, who led the Calgary Flames in points this year?

A lot of fans would have answered “Jarome Iginla” without thinking too hard about it. For the majority of the past several years, that would have been a good answer. But for the majority of this season, Iginla has been playing second fiddle in that category to his linemate, Olli Jokinen.

I know I was surprised, when I looked at the stats earlier this year, and saw Jokinen’s name atop the list. “Wait,” I thought. “The same Olli Jokinen who was our big name acquisition at the ’08-’09 trade deadline, and who was such a bust in the next season we traded him for a bag of pucks and an awful contract, and then inexplicably re-signed coming into last year? THAT Olli Jokinen?”

Yes, THAT Olli Jokinen. And while it is by some luck that he ended up being top dog on the Flames in points (he DOES play on Iginla’s line), the fact that he’s returned to being a top forward after a seemingly dismal start in Calgary is something we should take notice of.

As mentioned previously, the trade for Jokinen was thought by many to be the catalyst to propel a Flames playoff run at the end of the ’08-’09 season. He had two goals in his first game, and finished the season with a respectable 8 goals and 7 assists in 19 games. But the Flames were hit hard by the injury bug down the stretch, and finished fifth in the Western Conference. Backing into the playoffs, the team was dispatched by the Blackhawks in six games. Jokinen came back to the Flames next season, but didn’t live up the expectations placed on him, managing a mere 35 points in 56 games- much less than the Flames expected from a #1 centre.

At first glance, it appears that Jokinen has had something of a return to form this year, with a solid 53 points in 66 games. Upon further examination, it’s not quite that simple. In the half year he “struggled” with the Flames, his percentage of shots made was unusually low- 6.8%, against a career average of closer to 10%. He WAS +2, which demonstrates at least a passing attention to his own zone (something that we would notice in his play this year, he’s been good defensively).  And we’ve mused previously on how skill players seem to struggle when they come to the defensively responsible Flames; perhaps that affected him as well.

In any case, we should take the time to appreciate Jokinen while he’s here. Though his re-signing before last season was curious (well, it was to me), it has turned out quite well, and his performance may well have priced him out of the Flames’ range this coming off season. When we take the time to examine the numbers, and occasionally look beyond it, we can see past the perception of Jokinen as a bust, and how useful he actually is to the current iteration of the red and white.

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