Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Perfect fit for Finn

Jokinen brings scoring skill, veteran's voice to Jets quad

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It's all about a fresh start for Olli Jokinen, even in a career that dates back to 1998 and has featured more pit stops than the Indy 500.

It's about getting energized again in a new locker-room where the 33-year-old Finn will hold the most seniority and serve as a voice of experience.

And so while the debate rages on about the merits and faults of the Winnipeg Jets' new addition -- some have praised the franchise for landing the top free-agent centre, others spit out Jokinen's name like they've just gulped sour milk -- the man himself is ecstatic he's found a place he believes is a perfect fit.

"I had two other offers (Vancouver is rumoured to have offered a one-year deal) and when I looked at Winnipeg's lineup, they are an upcoming team and I thought it would be a good fit for me," Jokinen said from Finland.

"The more I was thinking and talking with my agent, we came to the decision that at this time in my career it's the best situation for me. I can go to a place and help a team hopefully take that next step and at the same time I can be part of something good.

"There's a lot of good young guys and so as an older guy it gives you energy, it gives you excitement."

Jokinen's addition to the Jets became official late Monday when he signed a two-year, $9-million contract with a modified no-trade clause. His arrival helps upgrade a team that was looking for more size -- he is 6-3, 210 pounds -- and an offensive boost to its first two lines. The 33-year-old veteran of 1,042 NHL games is coming off a season in which he finished second in scoring for the Calgary Flames with 23 goals and 38 assists.

His arrival not only gives the Jets some breathing room in the development of top prospect Mark Scheifele, but bolsters a Top 6 that finished with the promising but inconsistent Alex Burmistrov (13 goals, 15 assists) as the No. 2 centre.

In Jokinen, the Jets are getting more of a shooter than a distributor down the middle and a player who insists he has worked on developing the defensive side of his game. "I think a lot of people had (written) me off when I went back to Calgary (in 2010)," said Jokinen. "(Former GM) Darryl Sutter brought me back there and those guys believed I could still play in the league and be an impact player. The last year and a half I've changed my game to be a better overall player and the credit goes to (ex-Flames' coach) Brent (Sutter). He taught be how to play good in both ends and how to play against the tough lines and be more helpful to the team than just score goals and get points."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

JETS TURN FOCUS D2

The numbers

tell the story

-- Olli Jokinen's 61 points (23G, 38A) last season was more than, among others, these star NHL forwards: Corey Perry (60), Ryan Getzlaf (57), Rick Nash (59), Jeff Skinner (44), Jiri Hudler (50), Mike Richards (44), Dany Heatley (53), Vincent Lecavalier (49) and Alex Semin (54).

-- That point total was not only second-best on the Flames, it would have made him the leading scorer in Colorado, Florida (tie), Minnesota and Nashville and placed him second or tied him for No. 2 on eight other teams (Anaheim, Buffalo, Carolina, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Monreal, Washington and Winnipeg).

-- Jokinen's 61 points was 19th among NHL centres last year. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin was first at 109.

-- His 683 career points (292G, 391A) places him 25th among active NHL players. Daniel Alfredsson is first at 1,082.

What they're saying

WHAT SOME NHL MEDIA/BLOGGERS HAVE SAID ABOUT THE JOKINEN SIGNING, VIA TWITTER

-- Darren Dreger, TSN (@DarrenDreger)

'Jokinen is a good signing for the Jets. They needed a centre and he will help. Centres are hard to find via trade or in free agency.'

-- Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun (@simmonssteve)

'Something wrong in the world when Marty Brodeur and Olli Jokinen are being paid the same.'

-- Adam Proteau, The Hockey News (@Proteautype)

'Jets are about to sign Olli Jokinen? Cue record needle scratching on record, signifying official end of honeymoon with fans.'

-- Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (@Dejean_Kovacevic)

'Two years and $9M for Olli Jokinen? Not exactly wise expenditure for #NHLJets. Vanishes for months at a time, especially when most needed.'

-- Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun (@imacVanSun)

'Minority opinion: Olli Jokinen is a bad signing for the Jets -- or anyone else -- at 4.5M per. Long past best.'

-- Terry Jones, Edmonton Sun (@sunterryjones)

'Headline in Winnipeg tomorrow: "You Gotta Be Jokinen!" (Calgary classic)'

-- Ray Ferraro, TSN (@rayferrarotsn)

'Said yest on TSN that Jokinen would be a good sign for Jets - size, 50+ points / he will be good fit I believe'

-- Ed Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 D1

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