Olli Jokinen Is Not the Game Changer the New York Rangers Need

S BCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 28:  Olli Jokinen #21 of the Calgary Flames skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 28, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Flames 3-2 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Rangers' acquisition of Olli Jokinen from Calgary does little to improve the Rangers' fortunes.

The trade for Jokinen (as well as enforcer Brandon Prust) can be seen as a victory for the Rangers in that they unload Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik, but the move does very little to make the Rangers a better team.

Jokinen is a solid enough player, even if he struggled this season in Calgary. Jokinen's reputation is of a guy who does just enough, and no more, but even with that attitude, he's just four seasons away from a 39 goal, 91 point season.

But sadly for the Rangers, solid is not enough to help a team that's looked lost for the better part of the season.

The Rangers already have solid players. Ryan Callahan is solid. Vinny Prospal is solid. Erik Christensen is solid. They are unexceptional, but they regularly perform their expected roles.

A solid core wins Cups, but not without some exceptional players flying high over the foundation.

The Rangers have Marian Gaborik flying high above everyone else and that's where the game-breaking talent ends.

Teams know they only need to focus on shutting Gaborik down. With Gaborik contained, the Rangers are rarely a threat. It makes playing against the Rangers as simple as a five-on-one game plan.

If you look at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, you'll see teams with more than one difference maker. In Washington, Alex Ovechkin can depend upon Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom to draw some attention from him. In New Jersey, Zach Parise complements Travis Zajac. And while Buffalo doesn't have a true game-breaker, they have a committee of scorers that's just as impressive, with seven players with at least 12 goals this season.

The Western Conference is just as impressive. The Sharks already have two 30-plus goal-scorers in Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. Chicago has become one of the league's best teams on the backs of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And the Canucks have always had good luck sticking just about anyone with the Sedins.

The days of a single player being able to carry a franchise are long gone. Coaches have gotten too smart. They've learned how to isolate key offensive players and take them out of games. The only way for a modern NHL franchise to be successful deep into the playoffs is to have other talented players on the ice to divert the attention of the defense and to make coaches think long and hard about who they're going to put their checking line out against.

Will a player like Jokinen change the game that way? Will he force opposing coaches to pay attention to him? Will he divert defenses, freeing Gaborik?

Probably not. Instead, he'll probably be a slightly stronger version of Brandon Dubinsky, serving as a big body in the offensive zone, getting occasional chances, but doing very little to put some space between opposing defenses and Gaborik.

The Rangers might be a slightly better team now, with Kotalik and Higgins gone for good, and Jokinen in the lineup, but this move hardly fixes any of the team's problems. At best, it's a tiny bandage on a gaping wound.

The Rangers don't need more solid players. They need someone exceptional to take the pressure off of Gaborik.