Back in February of 2009, Jim Rutherford made one of his better trades in recent memory when he acquired Jussi Jokinen from Tampa Bay in exchange for Wade Brookbank and Josef Melichar. Jokinen was having the worst season of NHL career during that time and had only 16 points in 46 games with the Bolts. In each of the three years before that, Jokinen was a 40+ point player and an ace performer in shootouts, who could possibly give the Hurricanes forward corps a significant boost heading toward the playoffs. Rutherford decided to take a low-risk gamble by acquiring a talented, but under-performing player for two guys who weren't in the NHL the next season and it's fair to say that this move has worked out for him.
Since the Canes acquired him, Jokinen went on to play a huge role in the Hurricanes playoff run in the year they acquired him, score 30 goals the next season and be a key player of their top-six. However, last season was seen as a bit of a disappointment for him by some fans. He scored only 12 goals, which is his lowest full-season total since arriving in Carolina and had only 26 points at even strength. Compare that Jokinen's scoring rates during his previous two years with the Canes and you'll notice a pretty big drop-off. He went from scoring at least 2 even strength points per 60 minutes to not even scoring at a top-six rate. That's quite a decline, but how much of it was on him?
While Jokinen is a legit top-six player, he may have deceived a lot of people into thinking that he is better than he actually is with his 30-goal campaign in 2009-10. I'm not saying that Jokinen doesn't have solid goal-scoring talent, but when a player whose previous career high was 17 goals scores 30 in a season, you start to raise some eyebrows on what led to him having such a good year. Call me crazy, but I'm willing to bet that his 18.7% shooting percentage at even strength and 20.5% shooting percentage on the powerplay had a role in it. There are some players who are able to sustain shooting percentages that are above average, but when over 18% of the total shots a player takes end up in the back of the net, it usually means that he benefitted from a lot of good luck and is prone to see his goal/point total come crashing back down to Earth the next year.
Jokinen's shooting percentage would indeed fall the next season and it continued to decline the year after that to the point where he shot at only 8.5% at even strength and 10.2% overall. Thus, simple regression resulted in Jokinen going from being a "30-goal scorer" to having only 7 even strength goals two years later. Is what Jokinen showed last season his true talent level, though?
The thing with Jokinen is that he has never been that much of a goal scorer and most of his points usually come from assists, so it wouldn't surprise me if he never scores more than 19 goals again. That being said, he was a victim of some poor shooting luck at even strength last season, so I think he could be due for a rebound there but it won't be anything extreme. There is also talk of Jokinen returning to the wing this year, which is probably the only way he stays in the top-six with both Staal brothers now centering the first and second lines respectfully.
I mentioned in Jiri Tlusty's projection that he and Jussi Jokinen could be battling it out for the left wing spot in the top-six but I think Jokinen will ultimately win the job and stay there for the majority of the season. Now, if he does stay in the top-six, will he be in for a better season or will his numbers continue to regress? We'll explore this after the jump.