Olli Olli Oxen Free
The tumultuous tenure of Olli Jokinen in Calgary has been somewhat mind numbing since his arrival in the city nearly three years ago.
He arrived on March 4, 2009 from the Phoenix Coyotes with a third round pick in exchange for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first round pick in 2010 (Brandon Gormley).
He exploded onto the scene scoring seven goals in his first six games including a hat trick and five points in an 8-6 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Then, Olli disappeared for the rest of the regular season. He managed to show up in the playoffs scoring two goals and adding three assists in the six game series versus Chicago, but frustration with the lumbering centerman had already set in.
The following season he struggled to fit into new head coach Brent Sutter’s system, and into the center position on Jarome Iginla’s line – something that was forced way too much early in his time in Calgary.
Then, on February 1, 2010, he was involved in one of the strangest trades/non-trades in recent history when it was leaked prior to the Flames game versus the Philadelphia Flyers that Jokinen had been dealt to the New York Rangers along with Brandon Prust (who was re-acquired over the previous summer) in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik – this was one of Darryl Sutter’s finer moments and probably 2nd only to the Dion trade in terms of bonehead moves.
The Flames denied the rumours and Jokinen and Prust played the game despite sort of knowing they were no longer a part of the team. The result was a 3-0 uninspired loss to the Flyers in which the Flames only registered 18 shots on net.
The following day, the deal was made official and Jokinen was gone less than a year after he was acquired.
Fast forward to July 1, 2010. TSN reported the Flames have signed Jokinen to a two year deal four months after shipping him off. Laughter ensues throughout the league, and on the set of TSN, and Calgary and Olli are once again an item.
Olli would continue to frustrate fans going long stretches without scoring early in the season. However, somewhere along the way, he started to figure it out.
He finished the season with 17 goals and 37 assists – nothing crazy, but fairly reasonable.
Now, 56 games through this season, he has 46 points, including 17 goals and 29 assists and is the team’s leading scorer. His longest points dry spell between games has been three, and that’s happened just twice. He’s been, arguably, the most consistent Flames player this season. Only Miikka Kiprusoff has been better on a night in night out basis.
You might throw Curtis Glencross in the mix, but he got hurt, which brings me to another part of Olli’s game – his durability. Since the 1999-2000 season, Jokinen has played all 82 games six times. He has played 75+ games every single season.
He has completely changed his game in the three years since coming to Calgary. He has truly “bought in” to what Brent Sutter is trying to do. He is drinking Sutter’s Kool-Aid, and it’s made him a better player.
He has been the Flames go-to player in shootouts, and for the most part converting going 3-for-4.
I used to despise Jokinen with an intense passion. I wasn’t happy when they traded Lombardi, Prust, AND a first rounder for him – in fact I’m still not as the Flames could’ve had Brandon Gormley. I was even angrier when Darryl Sutter re-signed him in 2010. His incessant need to shoot from every obtuse angle on the ice still grinds my gears. How can I complain though? He’s one of the best players that the Flames have.
Now, that’s either extremely sad or a testament to how far Jokinen has clawed his way out of fans doghouses.
And to boot he has unbelievably finally found chemistry with Iginla after all this time. At first you don’t succeed, then try and try and try again...I guess.
At $3 million he is a relative steal, as he’s on pace to put up close to 70 points.
So now, the question is, with his contract set to expire at season’s end, what should the Flames do with the man and his Toyota 4Runner from Country Hills?
Trade rumours have swirled around Olli for the past month. But, would the Flames actually trade their leading scorer and number one center, being just two points back of the playoffs?
I highly doubt it. But then again, his history in Flames threads would suggest otherwise. There are probably quite a few teams looking for a big scoring presence up the middle. The Flames could probably fetch a couple picks or prospects and then re-sign him AGAIN once July 1st hits. Would Olli even come back though after being traded twice by the same team? It would be odd, to say the least.
If he does survive the trade deadline, then what about July 1st? Or do you even let it get that far? It’s widely known that Jokinen loves the city and would most likely take a little less than top dollar to stay here. That’s what you want isn’t it? A player who enjoys playing here and a player that plays his best here.
Seems like a no-brainer to re-sign him.
He is 33 years old, turning 34 next December, so how many years and how much do you give him? Maybe 3 years at $10 million? Four years at $14 mill? After bouncing around league for the past half decade, he will be looking for term on what is most likely his last big contract, and to be totally honest he has earned it.
His dedication to changing his game to fit with the Sutter system, and his chemistry with Iggy should ensure just that.
It’s been a bizarre three years with the Flames and Olli Jokinen.
It’s finally starting to resemble a normal relationship. That’s usually when things go wonky.
The future is unknown. All we do know is that it probably won’t lack any excitement.
What would you do with Olli Jokinen? Sign him? Trade him? Comment below.
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