Olli Jokinen to the Rangers: Why Can't the Big Center Seem To Stick?

Mike Miller@@mykeymillerContributor IIFebruary 2, 2010

Olli Jokinen was traded again Monday in a four-player deal with the New York Rangers aimed to shake things up in the face of a 1-7-2 record over the Flames' last 10 games.

This is the third time the 6'3" center has been traded since the 2008 offseason and the second major trade involving the Calgary Flames in the past few days.

Calgary also traded Brandon Prust in the deal, which became official shortly after Jokinen and Prust played in a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia Monday night despite knowing of the trade talks before the game, according to the Vancouver Sun. The Flames acquired Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik in the deal.

Calgary was a team picked by many to do a lot of things this year, including making a strong push for the Stanley Cup. Lately the Flames have had trouble finding the back of the net. Because they’ve struggled for a sustained period of time, changes had to be made. 

It was no real surprise to anyone they are wheeling and dealing. Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who was traded to the Maple Leafs earlier in the week, arguably will come back to haunt them. Jokinen, despite his 248-goal resume, will probably be forgotten.

The 31-year-old Finland native was brought in to play on a line with Jarome Iginla through a midseason trade with Phoenix last season.

He was supposed to be the guy that set up Iginla, the king of the give-and-go, for years. All the experts agreed this was a good fit for the Flames and he was worth the price the paid, including a first-round pick and Matthew Lombardi. But Jokinen slowly proved more and more to be a disappointment, totaling just 35 points in the Flames' 56 games prior to the trade.

So, less than a year later after coming to Calgary, Jokinen has been sent packing. At the end of his run with the Flames, Olli’s ice time was limited to duty on the checking line. 

Considering the fact he is now headed for his fourth team in less than three years, this latest deal begs the question: What is the problem with Olli Jokinen?

His trade to the New York Rangers marks the fifth time he has been dealt in his career. When a player is traded that many times, what is to be said about him?

Jokinen was taken third overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1997 NHL Draft, behind Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. He was supposed to be the pivot the Kings needed for years to come.

It never came to be, as Jokinen was dealt to the New York Islanders in a package deal for Ziggy Palffy. This was the first of the five times he was dealt. At the time it seemed he had potential, but his potential was dealt for the sure thing of Palffy.

When someone is traded frequently, it could be for a few different reasons: 1) They have a unique talent that fits a niche on a team; 2) They have a big salary teams aren’t willing to continue to pay; 3) They have a personality that doesn’t mesh with the rest of the locker room; 4) They were brought in to do something and are not doing it.

Hard to tell with Jokinen what the reason is he keeps getting moved. It may be for the same reason; it may be for a different reason each time.

Is Jokinen a goal scorer? Is Jokinen a playmaker? Is Jokinen a defensive forward? Is Jokinen a leader on and off the ice?

It’s tough to call him a goal scorer. He has had just four seasons out of 11 full ones that he’s scored more than 30 goals. He’s never scored 40 or more, only getting close once in 2006-07, when he had 39.

He really can’t be called a playmaker, either. His career assist total is 305, only 57 more than his career goal total of 248.

He’s not really a defensive forward, either. His career plus-minus is minus-83. It’s hard to be a thought of as a good defensive forward with those kinds of numbers.

Based on the sheer number of trades, it’s hard to think of him as a leader on or off the ice.

It’s tough to say what Olli Jokinen is all about. He was drafted high because he appeared to have potential. Based on the number of times he’s been traded and the salary he’s getting paid, it seems a lot of GMs still believe in his potential. 

This is his second stint in New York, though his first with the blue. Maybe it’s time he started living up to his potential. As a Ranger, one thing is for sure—everyone will notice if he doesn’t.


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