For Carolina fans, watching Jussi Jokinen this year was frustrating in many different ways. Finding a spot for him in the lineup was one side effect of the Jordan Staal trade, as Eric's younger brother was occupying the second-line center spot that Jokinen held for almost all of last season. I made a suggestion to play him on the wing becuase he has done it before and has produced in that role. The injury to Tuomo Ruutu also made putting Jokinen at one of the left wing spots in the top-six an attractable option, but the team opted to keep him at center and put him on the third line to start the year.
On paper, this made sense. Jokinen has never been a "tough-minute" player before in his career, so using him in a sheltered third-line role could play to his strengths. Jokinen was coming off a down year production-wise, but what he normally gives you in a year would be excellent for a third-liner. In a sheltered role, all he really had to do was drive the play and provide secondary scoring, both of which he is capable of. He is also very good at winning faceoffs, which is probably one of the reasons why they wanted to keep him at center. Keeping Jokinen in the top-six would have been most fan's preference, but using him as the third line center was not a bad plan going into the season. Unfortunately, it ended poorly.
Jokinen went the first 11 games without scoring a goal and had only one point during that stretch. To make matter worse, he went the first 20 games of the season without scoring an even strength goal and was on the losing end of the scoring chance battle. With Jokinen's skill-set, one would think that he is more than good enough to thrive in a sheltered, offensive role but for whatever reason, it just was not working in the first half of the season. He looked lost, frustrated and out of place on the third line.
As the season went on, Jokinen started to play better and he really seemed a lot more comfortable once moving over to the wing after Riley Nash took over the third line center role. The bad news was that Jokinen still wasn't producing much on the scoresheet and a lot of it had to do with poor puck luck. Jokinen has never been the most accurate shooter and there were definitely some moments where he would badly miss the net on an open shot or fumble the puck in the slot, but a lot of the numbers suggested that Jokinen was going through a patch of terrible shooting luck and he would eventually rebound from it.
The Hurricanes couldn't afford to wait for his luck to turn around, though. The team was going to be in a salary cap bind next year and they certainly could not to afford to commit $3 mil. per year to a player who was going to be on the third line when everyone in the top-six is healthy. Trading him made sense with the team's playoff hopes fading fast. How GM Jim Rutherford handled this situation, however, was less than ideal. Rutherford killed any value that Jokinen might have had by placing him on waivers and after he went unclaimed, he was forced to trade him to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a minimal return.
Still due $3 mil. next year, it was probably tough for Rutherford to find a new home for Jokinen in the middle of the year since he had only 11 points in 33 games at the time and this is probably why he was traded away for nothing. Even with Jokinen's poor numbers, holding onto him and then trading him at the end of the year wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world. The best case scenario is that his luck turns around (which it did in Pittsburgh) and he fetches a decent return this off-season and at worst, he could have gotten Carolina a mid/late round draft pick. Waiving Jokinen and then trading him to a future divisional rival just reeks of poor asset management on the part of Rutherford.
So now that we've reviewed how Jokinen's career as a Hurricane came to an end, let's take a closer look at how he performed with the Hurricanes this season.no comments