Seems like every time I've heard Olli Jokinen mentioned on television this season by hockey's chattering class, he's being trashed. I find that odd because Jokinen was here in Florida for seven seasons with the Panthers and was their best player for most of them.
It didn't prevent Jokinen from being traded to Phoenix at the draft last June, or again today to the Calgary Flames for Matthew Lombardi, prospect Brandon Prust and a first round pick. Good deal for the Coyotes because it cut the costs for the financially challenged team and brought them assets with upside, great deal for the Flames getting a very good offensive player who they've been after for the last couple of seasons.
Jokinen's career took off after Mike Keenan got to Florida, and the big center became a perennial 30 goal, 70 point guy and eventually captain. His personality wasn't really suited for the "C", but he rarely left anything on the ice, especially during those brief times when Florida was still alive in playoff races. But once the decision was made to move him, it was accompanied by whispers about his leadership abilities, and the noise has gotten louder this season.
Jokinen hasn't had a particulalry good season with the rebuilding Coyotes, although his 21 goals have him on his traditional scoring pace. Still the talking heads have frequently described him as a poor teammate and blamed him for never lifting a team to the playoffs. They've just overlooked the losers he has played on through his 10 seasons.
Now Jokinen gets a real shot at silencing those critics. It should have happened when he was a big time player during the 2006 Olympics for Finland, but it will come on an NHL stage where Jokinen is reunited with Keenan in a real hockey market for the first time in his career and surrounded with good players who can win.
Calgary is running away with the Northwest Division and has been one of the West's best teams for three months. Jarome Iginla is on fire again, Miikka Kiprusoff is playing Vezina quality goal, and a tough, physical defense was deepened earlier today with the addition of puck mover Jordan Leopold. The Flames have the elements and come out of the conference, and Jokinen gets a chance to go along for the ride.
Look for him to make the most of it.