It’s probably safe to say Jyrki Jokipakka wasn’t on many people in Calgary’s minds back in October. The likelihood of Kris Russell – an upcoming unrestricted free agent – being traded from a rebuilding team was high; but to which team, and what kind of return he would garner? That was unknown.
In exchange for Russell, the Flames got a package consisting of a pick, a prospect, and an NHL-ready defenceman four years younger. His name is Kevin, and hopefully, he finds a new home up here.
Jokipakka spent the first half of the 2015-16 season playing for Dallas. Over 40 games with the Stars, he posted two goals and six total points.
Offensive stats aren’t necessarily the area to look in when we’re talking about a 24-year-old defenceman that only just started playing in the NHL the season before, though. What I find much more interesting is just how much he was played: and in Dallas, he was at the bottom of the barrel, with an average ice time of 14:30 when he did dress. That was the least out of all regular Stars defenders, with just Jamie Oleksiak – who only dressed for 19 games – with fewer minutes on average.
So what about when Jokipakka came to Calgary? He had six assists through 18 games; he also averaged 17:54 in ice time, which was actually sixth in regular Flames defencemen ice times, ahead of Deryk Engelland, Jakub Nakladal, and Ladislav Smid.
Jokipakka barely played on the powerplay in both Dallas and Calgary; however, he saw some time on the penalty kill on both teams. He wasn’t either team’s primary go-to, though: he spent 28:50 total minutes killing penalties in Dallas, and 35:52 in Calgary.
All in all, Jokipakka was a bottom pairing defenceman in the 2015-16 season: but he was used much, much more once he was traded to the Flames. Maybe that was just the Flames wanting to see what they had, or maybe it was them having greater faith in him; either way, though, he had a bigger role with them.
Impact on team
Top left has players in most difficult circumstances: more defensive zone starts and tougher competition. Bottom right has players in easiest circumstances: a lot of offensive zone starts and weak competition. The bigger a player’s circle, the more he plays. The bluer, the greater his possession relative to his teammates; the redder, the worse. Click on image for full-sized chart from Corsica.
There are two different team impacts we should look at here. First up, Dallas:
When he was in Dallas, Jokipakka was the most sheltered defenceman in terms of zone starts. He saw relatively easy competition as well. Though his 5v5 CF was 50.34%, his corsi was still the fifth worst out of all Stars regulars during the regular season. He was, simply put, expendable.
For comparison’s sake, Russell didn’t fair much better, with just a CF of 50.66%; however, his zone starts and quality of competition were much tougher.
Now, in Calgary:
Jokipakka still faced relatively weak competition, but he wasn’t quite as sheltered in terms of zone starts. His 5v5 CF of 46.49% is a drop from where he was at in Dallas, however, in Calgary, he was only the ninth worst player in that stat: a slight improvement, made more respectable by the increased role he played.
For comparison’s sake, Russell had slightly more offensive zone starts but faced off against more difficult competition, and his CF was 43.62%: third worst on the Flames, ahead of just David Jones and Brandon Bollig, both of whom had two of the worst zone starts on the team.
What comes next?
Jokipakka is still under contract at just $900K for one more season before he hits restricted free agency. It’s probably safe to assume he spends the season on the Flames’ bottom pairing and second penalty kill unit, as that’s where he played for most of his (admittedly brief) time in Calgary.
The Flames defence, however, does have a hole in the top four. Among the players currently under contract and barring any pleasant surprises, Dennis Wideman should be the best bet to fill that hole, as he’s had success as a top four defenceman in the past; however, it’s entirely possible Jokipakka gets a shot there – he could be a late bloomer, or his new coach could like him, after all.
But what we should expect to at least start the next season is a young, cheap, reliable enough bottom pairing defenceman.