One of the unlikely heroes of the 2009 playoffs, Jussi Jokinen, is another player who had a rollercoaster type of season. The Finn went from the depths of being on the waiver wire, to burying game winning goals for the Hurricanes in the playoffs. He proved himself to be a dependable, flexible player during the postseason and is someone that management will certainly want to have back next season.
Jokinen was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the sixth round of the 2001 entry draft. After playing in Finland for a few seasons, he enjoyed his best NHL season during his rookie year of 2005-06 while scoring 17 goals and finishing with 55 points. More importantly, the sharp-shooter made a name for himself during shootouts as he went most of the season without missing any of his attempts.
After two successful seasons with the Stars, the forward was sent to Tampa Bay in 2007-08 as part of the Brad Richards deal.
|2008 - Jussi Jokinen||71||7||20||27||-10||28||2||0||1||0||101||6.9|
Jokinen started this season off in Tampa Bay playing for new coach, Barry Melrose. The campaign began pretty well for him and he was praised by his coach, who once said that the forward was the best player in Tampa. (Strong words considering that Vincent Lecavalier also plays there). But the team was not winning and Melrose got his walking papers. When coach Rick Tocchet took over, Jokinen saw his role diminish and his numbers went down. Suddenly, he was no longer worth his 1.875M salary, and he was put on waivers.
The Hurricanes were interested in the player immediately, but did not have room in their budget for his salary and did not claim him. Eventually, Jim Rutherford was able to convince Tampa to accept two unused pieces in the Carolina system, Josef Melichar, (1M), and Wade Brookbank, (600K), then tossed in a draft pick, and the numbers finally worked.
Jokinen was happy to be on Tobacco Road, but got off to a bit of a slow start as he tried to find a niche here. In March he had to suffer through the personal tragedy of losing his father. The team was still trying to figure out a good place for the skilled player, and ended up slipping him into Matt Cullen's spot when the center had to miss several games when he took a puck to the foot. Jokinen performed so well that it seemed like the Canes never missed a beat as their end of season winning streak continued, even with their number two center sidelined.
During the playoffs, he really showed what he was capable of as he matched his season total of goals, (seven), in just 18 playoff games. More importantly, several of the goals were pressure packed game changers, (two game winners and a game tying goal in game 7 in Jersey).
The Good- Jokinen is extremely versatile. Not only can he play any forward position, he can do it well. He is an excellent passer, shooter, and playmaker. He's also a smart player who seemed to be in the right place at the right time, especially in the playoffs. He's money in the shootout, and should be worth at least a couple of points if the team makes it to the post game skills contest. Jussi is a fan favorite, (now shouting "JUSSI" during the anthem), and has been a positive influence on teammate and friend, Joni Pitkanen.
The Bad- The Finn has never been known to be especially strong on defense and is a career negative on the plus/minus stat. (Although he does play on the PK) He's not a physical player and can be pushed off the puck at times when hard pressed. He needs work on the forecheck to see if he can be more effective at that aspect of the game.
The Money- He earned 1.875 million last season and now is a restricted free agent. The money is high for his regular season production, but again he showed what he is capable of in the playoffs. The key is consistency. He made no secret that he loves it in Carolina and wants to come back. One way or the other, Rutherford will accomplish this, even if it is just a one year deal.
Previous grades, (by poll average):
Chad LaRose - A
Matt Cullen - B
Eric Staal - B
Rod Brind'Amour - C
Ryan Bayda - B
Niclas Wallin - C