The Jets need to move past the Olli Jokinen era
On December 19, 2013, Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun wrote an article titled “Winnipeg Jets seem to be too comfortable with mediocrity”.
He interviews Blake Wheeler about the complacency of the Jets and suggests in his article that it comes from the leadership on the team allowing it to creep in or that the lack of fear of losing one’s spot is the cause for it.
I suggest that if they want to turn their fortunes around they better think about moving Olli Jokinen to his eighth NHL club. Not only do I believe that in doing so they can get players to become fearful again but they will improve on the overall leadership of the team.
“Who’s been pushing Wheeler, Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd for time on the top line?” he asks.
Quickly looking at their depth chart it seems that they have a capable set of top six forwards, with Jokinen being the second line center. He should be the one pushing Little but is he?
Jokinen’s stats have improved from the previous seasons pace but they are still low. His shot total is projected to be 166, his lowest full season total since his second year in Florida. Statistics provided from thn.com.
While he is a big presence at 6’2”, 210 pounds he is also 35 years old and despite his claims, in Ken Wiebe’s Winnipeg Sun article “Winnipeg Jets’ Olli Jokinen says he has five or six big seasons left”, he is not going to be making any one on the top line fearful of losing their spot.
In that same article by Ken Wiebe, “The expectation was that he’d take over as the No. 1 centre but that plan never materialized”, and in Jokinen’s own words, “You have to improve, because if you stop improving, somebody else is going to take your job”. The problem is that his performance is not pushing anyone.
That is not to say that he cannot be productive. He could be an excellent third line player taking important face offs and given some limited power play time as well. He would be pushing Mark Scheifele to be the second line guy in this scenario. Every once in a while he takes it away from him and then Mark would take it back until it was his for good. I think this is the fear that Paul Friesen was describing but that doesn’t explain why I think they should consider trading Jokinen away. That part of the argument comes to the leadership part of Paul’s article.
On July 3, 2012, in an article by The Canadian Press called “Olli Jokinen looking to provide Jets with leadership, offence” and in another article by Paul Friesen, dated January 18, 2013, called “Will Olli Jokinen be a leader or loser for Winnipeg Jets?”, his leadership qualities are brought to question.
While I would not go as far as Matthew Barnaby’s thoughts I would say that he has not been the leader that Winnipeg management was hoping for.
It is one thing to be a good two way player, to do whatever the coaches ask of you, to be a part of the community and have your family also want to be there but being a leader means more than that.
If the rebuttal is that his numbers are better, what more could he do? I would respond that leadership is not about personal numbers. It is about getting the most out of every player on that roster. Pushing teammates not through fear but through understanding, strength and sheer will.
Think of some current or past team leaders in the NHL. Did their personal statistical values make them leaders when they were 35 years old? No, it was the other intangibles that did. Saying things like “The best way to get the message across is to lead by example”, and “This game is more mental than anything else. And you can pass the message around, how big every minute is when you get on the ice” is all very nice for Jokinen to be quoted on but does he actually do these things? The results of the last two seasons say that he has not. Blake Wheeler said to Paul Friesen “You’ve kind of seen a lot of the same things over three years. Take a couple of steps, take a few more steps back. I’ve been this last little while trying to search for that magic antidote. And I don’t know. Comfortable? Yeah, maybe.”
It is time for the Jets to make things uncomfortable by stop Jokinen around.