Image From Colin Stuart
It’s hard to remember a player with a stranger tenure in Calgary than Olli Jokinen. As a guy who was traded for (and at a hefty cost), rumored to be traded away, told to play, actually traded away, and signed back in the offseason, Jokinen has been through it all.
He’s been the butt of multiple jokes (many made by myself – most involving bananas, barrels, kidnapped princesses, and McDonalds) and the subject to much criticism, and yet Jokinen has been a Calgary mainstay since he was acquired in 2008-09 (ignoring the trip to New York). The issue the Flames faces this year is that the former Panther/Coyote/Flame/Ranger is coming off of a season where he was paid slightly below the value he provided, meaning he’s in line for a raise – as well as an expected decline in performance.
Jokinen was largely praised for his turn-around in performance from his initial contract this season. And while there certainly was a turn around it’s hardly the career resurrection that many make it out to be. A good bit of the difference was in perception since his contract was much smaller and he produced higher than it’s value rather than the opposite that had been the standard for him previously.
But only part of it was contract optics. In fact, a lot of it was Jokinen truly "buying in" to Sutters designs for him. Spending most of his time with Iginla and Glencross (and other than that, Glencross and Moss), Jokinen found himself drawing up against the opponents top lines more often than most…and to surprisingly good results. With the highest quality of competition on the team, Jokinen appeared to be a strong shutdown player at first blush.
Unfortunately, a deeper look shows that he merely had mixed results. With zone start ratio of 47.9%, Jokinen wasn’t given the high ground but he certainly wasn’t exactly buried either. His basic possession rate of -10.25/60 minutes of ice time was the second worst amongst regular forwards on the team (Jarome was last) and his relative corsi rate of -6.3 was third worst. Even if we use Eric T’s "balanced corsi" (which corrects for zone starts) Jokinen is still underwater at -5.94/60.
All this means Olli spent a lot of time in the defensive end at even strength. As a result, his 5on5 scoring chance ratio this year was also abysmal (44.4%). So while Jokinen did the heavy lifting, it’s not like he genuinely succeeded at it. At best he was mediocre as an overall two-way force and scoring rates back that up.
Jokinen’s GF On/60 (Goals For While On the Ice) comes in at 2.90, best on the team. A little surprising, sure, but not overwhelmingly. Unfortunately his GA On/60 (Goals Against) was second worst on the team at 3.20. To make it a little clearer, Scott Hannan measured at 2.94.
Certainly a bottom three On-Ice SV% hurt that, but the point remains that Jokinen was not the all-star two-way center some fans seemed to think he was. He was better than in years past thanks to a commitment to simplifying his game, but he also benfited from Curtis Glencross’ career high SH% and an on-ice SH% of 10.39. Without those percentages, Jokinen is much deeper in the red by the end of the season.
To be fair to Jokinen, he remains a pretty decent producer with the man advantage. His PPP/60 rate was top two on the team for the second year in a row. The PP has been a strength for Jokinen throughout his career, so the Flames (or whoever signs him) can probably continue to bet on good numbers in that area from him.
A Potential Contract
So what can we imagine Jokinen would like in a new contract? It’ll almost certainly be a raise, given the $3M he earned the last two years was an absolute bargain, but it’s hard to imagine coming close to the $5.25M he was paid before that. Assuming a team takes a chance and splits the difference, that would give Jokinen a theoretical cap hit of $4.125M. Of course, the real issue with his deal will be length. At 34 years old, Jokinen is entering the twighlight phase of most careers and could theoretically step off a cliff in terms of performance at any time. Anything longer than one or two seasons carries with it significant risk.
So while all that might be fine for a team making a run with room for a big center, it’s a poor bet for the Flames need to get younger, cheaper and more flexible rather than older and more expensive (while running place).
The Good in Goodbye
Given Jokinen’s age, rumors of desire for a long-term deal, and the expectations of diminishing returns, it’s time for the Flames to get their Beyonce on and "find the good in goodbye".