Olli Jokinen was once the darling of certain Oilers message boards and blogs, and was the topic of conversation around more than one Edmonton water cooler. He was the "big scoring center" that would compete against other dominant centers in the Western Conference and bring back the glory to the Oilers. He's a man of size, skill and the dreaded "potential", and though he didn't use the size well, displayed the skill only in bursts and never lived up to his potential, and the Oilers already had a tough minutes outscoring number one center in Shawn Horcoff, Northern Alberta wanted him as their number one pivot. Jokinen's shortcomings and deficiencies were explained away as a lack of quality teammates, and given solid linemates like Ales Hemsky, Jokinen would thrive as a number one center in the West.
Unfortunately, there was never any evidence that Jokinen was able to take on that role. In Florida he was given the second-toughs assignment and couldn't manage to stay above water. The more affordable and less heralded Stephen Weiss was taking on the tough minutes and outscoring them. He arrived in Phoenix to much fanfare, yet couldn't handle the tough minutes. Wayne Gretzky gave Martin Hanzal the tough assignments and starting positions and Jokinen got the second minutes and easy starting assignments. They were both outscored by approximately the same rate.
At the trade deadline last year, Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter decided he needed a big scoring center in order to bring the Stanley Cup home to Calgary. Sutter shipped away a promising young center, Matthew Lombardi, and a draft pick for Jokinen's services over the last nineteen games of the season plus the 2009-2010 season at a cap hit of $5,250,000. The Flames were in first place in the Northwest at the time with a 38-19-4-2 record, ten points in front of Vancouver. The Flames stumbled down the stretch with their new number one center, going 8-11 and squandering their ten point lead as Vancouver.roared to a division title. Jokinen had 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points as a Flame but, in typical Jokinen fashion, ended up a -7. Any goodwill that remained from the trade was gone when Calgary was dispatched in the first round of the playoffs by the Blackhawks, 4-2.
This year, Jokinen continues to disappoint Calgary fans, though not at even strength as he's again facing second minutes but he's finally figured out a way to break even against that level of competition. The guys at Matchsticks and Gasoline might argue that breaking even against second minutes is not good enough for a $5,000,000 center.
It's been Jokinen's play with a man advantage that has torpedoed the Flames power play, and a team as short on forward depth as Calgary cannot afford to play poorly on special teams. Calgary's power play ranks 23rd in the NHL at 16.4%. It's the one area where Edmonton fans can point and laugh at Calgary this year as Edmonton's power play is 11th in the NHL at 19%. If Calgary were operating at Edmontonian levels, they'd have five more goals on the season.
Using the outstanding Gabriel Desjardins' microstats analysis site Behind The Net, we can take a look at the Flames' 5-on-4 stats in 2009-2010 shows just how poor Jokinen's performance has been among all Flames forwards with at least one minute of power play time per sixty minutes.
Jokinen is second-to-last in goals per 60, last in goals for on per 60, first in goals for off per 60, and last in goals for differential.
In the NHL this year, there are 175 forwards that average more than two minutes per sixty on the power play. Olli Jokinen ranks 163rd in GFON/60. Matthew Lombardi ranks 40th at 8.02. Noted Oilers' power play scapegoat Shawn Horcoff ranks 118th at 5.95, and that's without the benefit of the team's best power play forward for the last 30 games.
Trading for Jokinen robbed the Flames of Matthew Lombardi's youth and $3,400,000 worth of valuable salary cap space that could have been used for forward depth. Calgary minus Jokinen plus Lombardi, Manny Malhotra and Alex Tanguay is a frightening spectre. Though Flames fans might not want to hear it, the best thing for the team in the long run is that the Flames fall completely out of the playoff race. It would force Sutter to deal Jokinen (maybe he can find a like-minded sucker to surrender a promising young center) and restore some youth and cap room in Calgary.