Winnipeg Jets: Olli Jokinen Having a Terrific Bounce-Back Season

Anthony Capocci@CapocciJETSContributor IDecember 4, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02:  Olli Jokinen #12 of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates his second goal of the game against the New York Rangers at 18:06 of the third period at Madison Square Garden on December 2, 2013 in New York City. The Jets defeated the Rangers 5-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets signed Olli Jokinen to a two-year contract in 2012 with expectations that he would provide scoring and depth. That wasn’t the case…at least initially.

At the time of the signing, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was criticized for “overpaying” for Jokinen at $4.5 million per season. Jokinen didn’t do much to prove the critics wrong in his first season with the Jets, and I don’t think anyone will try to justify that price.

In 45 games last season, Jokinen had seven goals to go with seven assists. He also finished the year as a minus-19. But beyond that, his overall play was dim. He just wasn’t the same old dominant Jokinen from years past.

It looked like it wasn’t going to work out for Jokinen in Winnipeg until now. Jokinen is having himself a tremendous bounce-back year.

Jokinen has already surpassed his point total from last season. In 29 games, he has six goals and 17 points. The statistics don’t really tell you just how good he’s playing—and it’s a thousand times better than last year.

Jokinen has been a dominant two-way player this season. His play in all three zones has been outstanding, and he completes his game with a solid backcheck and forecheck. There’s a lot of confidence growing in Jokinen’s game.

Besides, Jokinen is one of the most consistent Jets forwards each night.

Is Jokinen playing like the Florida Panthers’ version? Obviously no, I’m afraid that won’t happen again (he was too dominant then). But he’s playing much better for a man his age, and the difference from last year is tenfold. After all, expectations were low to begin with, but he’s certainly surpassing them so far.

On Monday, Jokinen stepped up and scored twice to help lead the Jets to a huge road win over the New York Rangers. The Jets need Jokinen to continue stepping up each night if they want any chance at playoff hockey.

Jokinen’s bounce-back season isn’t just good for the Jets. More importantly for Jokinen, it gives him new life in the NHL after it seemed he was on the brink of being finished.

Jokinen is due to become a free agent at the end of this season, so he’s ideally playing for a new contract. Also, it’s possible the Jets move Jokinen near the trade deadline, depending on where the Jets stand at that point.

But for now, Jokinen is enjoying a revived stint with the Jets.

Jokinen will turn 35 on Thursday, which means the clock is ticking on his NHL career, but he’s showing there’s still game left in him. If he keeps up his pace, he’ll certainly have another job next year.