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.
Jokinen is another player who isn't given big minutes even though he plays in the top-six. He played fewer minutes per game than Brandon Sutter and only a little more than Patrick Dwyer did at even strength last season. That's usually been the case for him over the course of his career. My thought is that Jokinen played fewer minutes because he relied on less defensively than some of the team's other forwards and was used in more of a sheltered role last season. This is a bit strange because Jokinen kills penalties, so he is trusted with some defensive responsibility but he may have some problems when it comes to defending his own end at even strength.
Since I'm projecting Jokinen to stay in a top-six role next season, I have him playing roughly the same amount of minutes as last year. His ice-time might be reduced a bit depending on how Kirk Muller roles his lines, but Jokinen playing 12-13 minutes a game is very likely if he stays in a top-six role. He would probably get that much playing on the third line, as well. He might end up playing more minutes than what I am projecting for him if he gets bumped up to the first line with Eric Staal and when you consider their history together, this isn't out of the realm of possibility.
This basically illustrates what I was explaining in the introduction about Jokinen's shooting percentage. He was having a down year when the Canes acquired him and a lot of it related to terrible shooting luck, which turned right around the next season and has been on a downhill slope since then. Again, I think Jokinen is due for a better season in terms of shooting percentage because having only seven even strength goals is unacceptable for a top-six player and he has been relatively decent finisher for most of his career. He will never reach his 2009-10 form again (because that would be almost impossible to accomplish) but he should be able to see his even strength shooting percentage get back to where it was the previous year or somewhere remotely close to the league average.
Shooting percentage and bad luck was definitely a problem for Jokinen but another issue was that he wasn't shooting the puck much at all. He's never shot at that high of a rate but it fell to a new low last season as he had less than five even strength shots per 60 minutes during even strength play. A rate that was lower than the likes of Patrick Dwyer and Tim Brent. I want to say that Jokinen's declining shot rate is a result of him moving back to center for most of the season, which is possible since both Skinner and Ruutu shoot the puck quite a bit. If Jokinen wants to stay in the top-six and play as a winger, then he is definitely going to need to improve his shot rate. He's never been that much of a shooter in general but if he can get around six shots on goal per game as a winger then that would be adequate.
I would hope that he could get more shots on goal in a top-six role simply due to the fact that he will be playing with better linemates than he had last season. Jokinen is already one of the team's better possession drivers, so he's spending more time in the opponent's zone than not. He just needs to get more shots on goal than he did last season. I'm not sure if a return to wing will automatically fix that but his past numbers indicate that it could lead to an improvement in his shot rate.
|Year||ESA||ESA/60||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
I mentioned that Jokinen played softer ice time than most of the Hurricanes other top-six players last season and he was able to take advantage of it by driving possession and having his line create a healthy amount of shots on goal. So even though Jokinen wasn't creating many shots by himself, he was at least able to move the puck into the offensive zone and keep it there whenever he was on the ice. That's going to be very important for this team going forward.
If Jokinen continues to be on a line that is decent to good at controlling possession, then he should be on-ice for more goals and in turn, possibly record more assists if his shooting percentage rebounds. Last season, his shooting percentage was below what would be considered "league average" so it's reasonable to expect him to see some regression there, but in a good way. I don't know which line Jokinen will end up playing on, but if he ends up with one of the Staal brothers, then I think it's safe to say that he will likely be on ice for at least 30 shots on goal per game during five-on-five play.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Jokinen is normally considered one of the team's heavy hitters on the powerplay and even though his ice-time there was reduced last season, he still recorded 18 points there, which was the second most on the team. Managing power play ice time is going to be one of Muller's biggest challenges this season because he has so many options to play with and Jokinen could end up being one of the guys who sees his ice time go down again due to that. It might be hard to cut his ice-time if he performs as strong on the powerplay as he has in recent memory, but with the Staals, Skinner and Semin on the team, it's tough to find a place for Jokinen on the first unit.
|Year||PPG||PPG/60||PP SOG/60||PP Sh%|
Much like his production at even strength, Jokinen's powerplay shooting percentage has already peaked, only to have it crash back down to Earth a couple years later. The one major difference here is that Jokinen was shooting the puck a lot more frequently on the powerplay than he was at even strength. This is probably due to him predominately playing on the wing during 2009 & 2010 since his shot rate at even strength was higher in those season, as well. Jokinen is probably going to find himself playing wing again, so his shot rate on the powerplay could go back to where it was a couple years ago. I don't think he'll be able to touch his 2009-10 production, though. Those days appear to be over.
|Year||PPA||PPA/60||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
The Hurricanes shooting patterns on the powerplay with Jokinen on the ice are a bit strange. They normally record a high volume of shots on goal when he is on the ice with exception to the 2010-11 season where the team's shot rate inexplicably fell down the drain. The Hurricanes had an awful powerplay that season and Jokinen was likely one of many forwards who saw their shot rates and their point totals decline as a result. The good news is that the team's shot rate picked right back up the next season and Jokinen ended up recording more assists without seeing any sort of shooting regression. The Canes powerplay didn't score as often as most would like but one thing they were doing right was getting shots on goal and it appears that Jokinen was one of the forwards who was carrying the mail in those situations. This makes Jokinen a vital part to the powerplay and he should hopefully continue to get good ice time there.
I know there is a lot of talk of Jokinen being demoted to the third line center role and Jiri Tlusty playing the wing on the second line, but I just can't see Jokinen out of the top-six right now. His even strength production was underwhelming last season but a good chunk of his problems there relate to bad luck and an unfortunate shooting percentage. Jokinen isn't going to shoot at 8.54% during even strength play forever and his on-ice shooting percentage is prone to rebound, as well. I think Jokinen will stay in the top-six and continue to play about 13 minutes a game at even strength.
That brings us to Jokinen's shot rate and shot total, which both took an enormous step down last season. I could see Jokinen shot rate improving if he moves back to the wing but he's never been much of a shooter in the first place, so I don't think it will increase that much. It's very likely that Jokinen could end the season with less than six even strength shots per 60 minutes, which would be disappointing but still an improvement over last season. My hope is that Jokinen moving back to the wing can lead to him getting more than six shots on goal per 60 minutes, but I think it's more likely that he ends up with 5.85 ESSOG/60. That would give him about 105 even strength shots in an 82 game season. If Jokinen were to shoot at his five-year average, then he would end up with 12-13 goals at even strength but he could end up with as many as 19 if he strikes gold at even strength again but I don't think that's very likely.
If Jokinen's shot rate increases from what it was last season and he plays on a stronger territorial line, then he could easily be on ice for more than 30 even strength shots on goal per game. Jokinen is already a good player when it comes to driving the play at even strength, so if he's able to do it again with stronger teammates, then it could lead to him being on ice for even more goals than he was last season. Of course, this will depend on how well he and his teammates shoot, which is essentially unpredictable but we're going to try to do that here anyway.
I have Jokinen on ice for a little over 30 even strength shots on goal per game, which would put him on for 545 total even strength shots on the season. Depending on what his on-ice shooting percentage is, Jokinen could be on-ice for anywhere from 38 to 59 goals next season, which is a pretty big range but that's what tends to happen when your on-ice shooting metrics bounce all over the place. Personally, I have the team shooting about 8.65% with Jokinen on the ice this year because that's about Jokinen's career average and I'm not expecting the Canes second line to shoot lights out this year. Jokinen would then have anywhere from 19-24 assists at even strength depending on how many goals he is involved in. Jokinen usually records an assist on less than 50% of the goals he is on ice for, so it's better to go towards the lower end here.
While I'm projecting Jokinen to have a better goal-scoring year at even strength, I don't think he his powerplay goal total will follow a similar pattern. Yes, he had bad shooting luck on the powerplay last season compared to the previous two years, but that's mostly because his shooting percentage was so ridiculously high in those seasons that the chance of him repeating that kind of success is unlikely. That being said, he could have more powerplay goals if he shoots the puck more than he did last season, which I think is possible if he moves to the wing, but I don't think it will have that huge of an effect. The 2009-10 seaosn looks like Jokinen's peak year and I don't think he will come close to putting up those kind of numbers again, but he may see his shot rate go up a little bit. I'm taking the conservative route and projecting him to have 6.6 PP shots per 60 minutes. That would lead to him having about 25 PP shots in an 82 game season if he plays a little over two minutes on the powerplay per game. This would give Jokinen anywhere from 3-5 powerplay goals depending on how well he shoots. His five-year average would give him four PPGs while his five-year low would give him only three. I'm going to say he gets four while shooting somewhere in between.
Now the only question remaining is will Jokinen record a high number of assists on the powerplay yet again? To answer that, you have to ask yourself if the Hurricanes will be able to record so many shots on goal with Jokinen on the ice like they did last season. Personally, I don't see the Cane sustaining that kind of production even if Jokinen is a good powerplay performer because a PPSF/60 rate of 58.3 is ridiculously high and hard to sustain in the long-run. It's also going to be tough for him to sustain that kind of production if he plays on the second powerplay unit. I think Jokinen will see his powerplay shot rate decrease but still be on ice for roughly 50 shots on goal per 60 minutes and that would lead to him being on ice for anywhere from 21-31 powerplay goals. If the Canes shoot at 11.7-11.9% with him on the ice like they have for the last few years, then Jokinen will be on ice for 22 powerplay goals. He recorded an assist on 65% of the PPGs he was on ice for last season, but I don't think he will be able to repeat, so I see him recording an assist on 50-55% of the PPGs he is on ice for since he's been able to do that for most of his career. This would give Jokinen 11-12 powerplay assists in an 82 game season.
82 Game Projection
|Jokinen 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
Jokinen is 30 years old now and while I think he still has a few good years left in him, he should see his point production decline relatively soon. Will it happen next year? It's possible if his shot rate continues to decline and he gets no help from the hockey gods with his shooting percentage. I have Jokinen producing at about the same rate as he did last season but I'm expecting an increase in his even strength production since most of his problems there last season related to bad luck. Jokinen might be relied on more for goal-scoring as a winger, so that could lead to him having a higher goal total than what I'm predicting, but I don't see how someone who shoots the puck so little can score 20+ goals without the benefit of a ton of puck luck.
If Jokinen has a repeat of 2009-10 and sees just about every bounce go his way, then his point total will look a lot similar to the ceiling I have projected for him. If his shot rate and shooting percentage continue to decline into the abyss, then he will finish near the low point. My personal projection for him is, what I feel, a nice medium between the two. At the end of the day, Jokinen will be good enough to stick in the top-six and be one of the team's top powerplay producers again.