Fantasy GMing – move Jokinen to left wing


For years, the common lament around Calgary was the lack of a true #1 center. Some guys weren’t skilled enough (Conroy) and some guys weren’t big enough (Langkow) to fit the commonly held profile of the archetypal #1 pivot. As a result, Darryl Sutter busied himself for a couple of seasons pursuing the 6’3″, 215 pound Olli Jokinen – and this past March, he finally landed the big Fin. Problem is, the team didn’t get any better with Jokinen’s addition. The mythical “big body presence” trumpeted by shrill, talking heads on hockey broadbasts couldn’t overcome Kipper’s poor SV% or the rash of injuries. It didn’t even prevent a damaging power play drought that afflicted the team for the last 10 games of the year. And it didn’t overcome many of Jokinen’s individual failings.  

In my own estimation, Olli Jokinen isn’t a #1 center. Hell – he’s barely a center at all. Firstly, he’s terrible at winning face-offs. His FO% last year was a putrid 43.4% – good for 82nd in the league. Secondly, he’s no better than mediocre in the defensive zone, which is a pre-requisite for anyone to be considered a capable center in the NHL. Unlike wingers, pivots have a significant degree of responsibility down low in their own zone. They also frequently have to be the first foward back on the back-check. A defensively lax centerman is a bigger liablity than a so-so winger.

Thirdly and finally, Olli Jokinen isn’t much of a puck distributor – my final criteria for a top-notch center. Jokinen is a shooter; a guy who bursts over the blueline and looks to rip the puck into the top corner. He shoots from may positions and all angles. What he doesn’t do (from what I’ve seen) is establish position in the offensive and look to get the puck into open areas. His size, speed and overall skills are perhaps indicative of your ideal first line centerman, but his decision making surely is not.

There’s another reason to move Jokinen to left wing – the Flames depth chart. Let’s go through it by position:








Left wing




Prust (?)


Right wing




Van Der Gulik

See the issue? The roster, as currently constructed, has depth down the middle but is short on the wings, especially when it comes to offense. Moving Jokinen to the left side would bump guys like Bourque, Glencross and Nystrom back down the depth chart where they’d be more comfortable and it makes room for the likes of Boyd (or Backlund) at his natural position. It also means no more Jokinen losing draws in his own zone and then flailing away during the ensuing attack.

Jokinen – Langkow – Iginla

Bourque – Boyd – Moss


Bourque – Langkow – Iginla

Jokinen – Boyd – Moss

Won’t happen of course, but does this make sense to anyone else?

  • RCN

    It might be easier than finding a top six winger for the table scraps of cap space the Flames have left.If you think Boyd's ready, you could go that route. Whether Jokinen would make that work is another matter. Ego does play a role.

    The other option if you go that route and Boyd isn't quite there yet is to sign a cheap-ish veteran center on a one year deal. Brendan Morrison played nobodies, with nobodies, and kept his head above water. He isn't worth 2.75 million anymore, but if he's in the discount bin (1.5 million or under), I might think about it. I'd rather have a guy like Malhotra, but he seems intent on pricing himself out of the marketplace, and not just for a team like Calgary.

  • RCN

    I'd rather give Boyd a chance than sign a stop gap of limited ceiling like Morrison. Kids' entering his 3rd NHL season and it's about time to give him a shot…

    …that is, unless the Flames move Sarich and free up some real cap space.

  • RCN

    @ Kent:

    I'd prefer to give him a chance as well. I've been a pretty vocal defender of Boyd, and I hate the way he's been handled, but the Flames are a veteran group. I don't think management will give him much rope. More to the point, with Conroy and Jokinen both UFA next summer, I'd guess that will be the time where they either hand Boyd the keys to one of the first three lines, or run him off. I'd like to be completely wrong on this matter, though.

  • RCN

    I think Jokinen was pretty average so far in his time with the Flames. Some nights he showed signs of brilliance and others he was very bad. I have come to the conclusion that given the circumstances, however, I fully expect him to be much better next season.

    Be it the teams focus on a defense first system, a coach who will refuse to play favorites, or him attending training camp and better understaning the expectations; I expect him to be a point a game player who's +/- will be well above even. I fully expect him to ride the pine should he not develop a penchant for defensive play and become better at faceoffs, he will quickly find him in Sutters bad books.

    I dont know if he should play with Iggy because it provides a balance of power amongst the two lines. Langkow and Iggy play very well together and they should not overlook that chemistry.

    As rumours have it, Chicago is looking for a big defensive minded defender who can hit (ie Sarich). If i were GM I would trade Sarich to them for Bruower and a mid to later round draft pick. Theres another Bourque and a guy who can round out the top 6 fully. A Dave Bolland or Byfuglien would be more ideal but you have to wonder if they would move either of them. Sarich and something, maybe.

  • RCN

    If I'm not mistaken, once upon a time, in Florida, a man named Mike Keenan moved Jokinen from right wing to center and moved Viktor Kozlov from center to right wing and Olli had a breakout year. Interesting concept nontheless. I'm still on the Mike Comrie bandwagon (if he'd rather win and sign around 2.5, then make yet more money for The Brick)

  • RCN

    Good proposal, Kent, and I could easily be convinced this is the right move for the team, especially because I believe it's time to allow Boyd to sink or swim in the deep end of the pool.

    But playing devil's advocate for a moment, there would be backlash from critics who would rather see Conroy's role and minutes decreased (which would be harder to do is Jokinen moves to the wing), from those who question Boyd's defence and from those who worry about giving Backlund too much responsibility too soon. I won't bother mentioning the Langkow detractors, because I know we have similar thoughts on No. 22.

  • RCN

    Good points Jean…

    the issue with Conroy is: he's a superior centerman qua centerman than Jokinen. He's better at taking face-offs, he's better in his own zone and he's been taking on tough competition for years. There's no reason to worry about Conroy's ice time or responsibility unless he takes a big step back this year.

    Boyd and Backlund are legit concerns. Neither can carry water at the NHL level in terms of their own zone, especially Backlund. I actually don't personally think the latter will make the team at all this season, but I threw his name in for discussion purposes.

    If Calgary wants to develop Boyd as centerman, they'll have to make a decision similar to this this coming season. Either he'll center the 4th line (which won't do much for his development) he'll get moved to wing on one of the top 3 lines (more useful, but he won't grow as a centerman given the postions unique requirements) or they can move one of the other centers over, play him with some strong wingers (Moss, Bourque) and give him a shot. The worst center of them all in many ways is Olli Jokinen, thus my proposal.