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Jay Feaster’s Blog: Will Jokinen burn bright as a Flame?

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

While the Calgary Flames clearly made the biggest splash at the trade deadline, query whether they can win the ultimate prize as a result of their acquisition of enigmatic center Olli Jokinen.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why Jokinen is now playing for his fifth NHL team? Why did it not work for him in Los Angeles, on the Island, in Florida or Phoenix? What was it about this incredibly strong, talented player that caused him to change addresses so frequently during his NHL career?

Do you believe it mere coincidence that Jokinen has played almost 800 NHL games without appearing in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Has he simply been the victim of bad luck and circumstance all these years? Perhaps.

More than anything, that may be the beauty of the Flames’ acquisition of Jokinen. This post-season we may finally get to see whether Jokinen is worthy of the star treatment afforded him by the media, or whether he is a talented, but somewhat selfish player who cannot carry a team when it counts most.

Jokinen was lethal against us when I managed in Tampa and he captained our cross-state rivals. Of his 43 career game-winning goals, 40 must have come against us during that time (or so it seemed). Nonetheless, I was never a fan of the big Finn, as I never saw him as a good fit with our chemistry or our team concept.

I was surprised, at first, when I heard he went to Calgary. I respect Darryl Sutter as much as I respect any GM in the game and I know he understands the importance of chemistry in the room. Why gamble on the nomadic Jokinen?

As I analyzed it further, it became clear. Not only did Jokinen play some of the best hockey of his career under current Flames coach Mike Keenan, but Darryl’s brother Duane had been in the Panthers organization for years in a number of capacities and no doubt knows Jokinen as well as anyone.

I have always questioned whether Jokinen can lead a team to the Promised Land. At his previous stops Jokinen was asked to be a leader and a consistent difference maker who was expected to elevate the play of those around him. While he put up big numbers offensively, he played to a career minus-79 and could never close the deal.

In Calgary, Jokinen will not be asked to lead the band. The dressing room belongs to Jarome Iginla. The Flames are Iggy’s, Kipper’s and Robyn Regehr’s team. All Jokinen has to do is find a way to fit in with the ensemble. No lead singing required, no front man needed, just lay down some bass tracks and find a groove with your linemates.

The longest personal playoff drought in NHL history is going to come to an end next month. For those of us who have spent years wondering exactly what Jokinen’s NHL legacy should be, we might finally get an answer.

After nearly 800 games, for the first time in a star-crossed career, Olli Jokinen will be given a blank sheet of ice on which to create a Stanley Cup playoff legacy and I can’t wait to watch.

Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on throughout the 2008-09 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.


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