Do you believe in ghosts? Or believe in the superpower of going invisible? If you do or even if you don’t, you might be inclined to the story of the invisible man who allegedly suits up for the Winnipeg Jets. His name is Olli Jokinen. According to the game program, Jokinen wears jersey number 12. But there are have been too many nights where Jokinen doesn’t seem to be on the ice.
Sure, he played in 45 out of 48 games last season. And yes, Jokinen actually compiled 7 goals and 7 assists in the 2012-13 season. So technically speaking, Jokinen isn’t a ghost or the invisible man. But on many nights last season, Jokinen was barely noticeable on the ice, making little impact on the outcome of the game. You could even say, Jokinen’s non-influence provided negative results for the Jets, as they missed the playoffs last season.
To be fair, Jokinen isn’t the only one to blame for the Jets absence from the postseason. There were many factors that caused the Jets failure to reach the Stanley Cup tournament. However, more is expected from the Finnish centre, who is expected to make $4.5 million this season.
For those who believe in advanced statistics, (I’m still a neophyte at this so it will take some time for myself to get a better understanding) Jokinen’s Corsi and Fenwick numbers have been on a decline for the last three seasons, which has many in the analytics department shaking their heads, wondering why Jokinen is still highly regarded by Jets head coach Claude Noel. This despite the fact Kane topped both the Corsi and Fenwick numbers last season.
Noel is still hoping that Jokinen can centre the second line between Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi, while Mark Scheifele hones his game. However, Jokinen and Kane didn’t show any chemistry while playing together last season, and they still haven’t clicked so far during the preseason. Noel has tried Scheifele with Kane and Setoguchi, but has said he prefers Jokinen on the second line because Jokinen is “defensively responsible.” I beg to differ.
Once again, I will use some advanced stats to prove the point. Jokinen only won 30.3% of faceoffs he took in the defensive zone. Jokinen’s HARD rating is an astounding -99.1. HARD numbers are calculated with shots for and against when a player is on the ice. So on average, the opposition directs 99 more shots on goal towards the Jets goal, than the Jets direct towards the opposition goal when Jokinen is on the ice. The key is if the opponent is directing shots toward the Jets goal, they are obviously more likely to score than the Jets when Jokinen is seeing ice time. The only Jet to have a worse HARD rating than Jokinen was Antti Miettinen, and he’s no longer with the team. (Which is a good thing.)
Now numbers don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes it takes a feel or simple eyesight to see what Jokinen is or isn’t doing on the ice. Next time the Jets are in action, just watch Jokinen play. (If you can find him) I have done that throughout the preseason and from what I’ve seen, I’m not impressed. Granted it is only the preseason but Jokinen is fighting for a spot on a line with a budding star like Evander Kane. This shouldn’t be handed to him on a silver platter, Jokinen must earn the spot alongside Kane and Setoguchi. And in my eyes, Jokinen hasn’t earned it. A lazy player who can’t or won’t keep up with Kane on the rush. Jokinen looks lost and disinterested most of the time. I really wonder if Jokinen would rather be back in Finland, hunting and fishing in one of the many forests and lakes that dominate the Scandinavian nation. Jokinen doesn’t use size to his advantage either. Despite an imposing 6-3, 215 pound frame, Jokinen is leery of physical contact and can be seen taken off the puck by smaller players rather easily. To me, that says Jokinen lacks the passion and the will to win. Don’t believe me? Then answer me why have teams with Jokinen on their roster managed just one playoff appearance? That can’t be a coincidence. Sure Jokinen has played on some mediocre teams. (You can even argue that the Jets are mediocre) But at some point, the player has to be held accountable for constantly not living up to expectations.
This is a big year for Jokinen. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Jokinen has another season like 2012-13, it will be his last season in the NHL. The Jets are hoping that will be enough motivation for Jokinen to regain his 2006-07 form in which Jokinen registered a career high 91 points (39 goals, 52 assists) with the Florida Panthers. However, if the Jets are expecting those type of numbers from Jokinen, it will be a huge miscalculation from management, and could very well cost Noel his job. The pressure is on!
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973
*Special thanks to stats.hockeyanalysis.com for the information.*