Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'You ain't seen nothing yet'

After ramping up his off-season fitness training, Jets centre Olli Jokinen plans to answer critics with a big season in 2013-14

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Olli JOKINEN, after being poked and pushed and probed on the subject of his disappointing season, finally put an end to the discussion with a pronouncement that, if true, could dramatically alter the complexion of the Winnipeg Jets.

"Let's leave it at this. You ain't seen nothing yet," said Jokinen, before turning and walking away and then stopping to look over his shoulder to repeat himself. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

It's a point of fact that Jets followers have seen very little, and some might argue nothing from Jokinen, who scored just seven goals and 14 points in 45 games last season.

A free agent signing in the summer of 2012, Jokinen was brought in to add offence and provide Evander Kane with a running mate. It didn't pan out and Jokinen knows it.

The veteran went to the point of telling Jets coach Claude Noel in his exit meeting last spring if he had performed at a higher level, the team would have reached the post-season.

That's a lot for a player to put on himself but in that assessment lies what Jokinen expects of himself at this stage of his career. He still believes he can be an impact player, even if others are now doubting him.

"I'm honest with myself. You have to be. There were some guys that had good seasons last year and others that didn't get enough accomplished," said Jokinen, who will turn 35 this season. "I didn't play as well as I can. That's no secret."

Jokinen admits to making a mistake, albeit for the right reasons, by not playing in Europe during the lockout. While others kept their legs moving at game pace, Jokinen remained in Winnipeg and when the season resumed, he was behind. And he stayed behind all season.

"I should have played but I had the family moved up here and we were trying to get settled and I kept pushing it back hoping the lockout would end," said Jokinen.

It was an eye-opener for a player that works hard on his fitness and has always been one of the fastest in the pack. Age is something Jokinen is aware of but never had it been so clearly defined as a factor.

"I've done some things different this summer. I started skating in July. I've never skated that early," said Jokinen, who took almost no time off this summer but immediately started training three days after the Jets' season ended.

Down six pounds in an attempt to revive the speed that powers his offence, Jokinen has a determined look right now.

Long past the point of having to prove anything as a player with over 1,000 NHL games and 697 career points, Jokinen didn't enjoy underachieving. He wants to perform for the Jets and for himself.

"I have one year left on my contract. But I'd like to play five or six more years and I think I can," he said. "I like short-term deals at this stage of my career because they motivate me. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to have a 10-year deal right now but no one is going to give me one."

The Jets made some additions to their roster this summer by bringing in Devon Setoguchi and Michael Frolik. The club also expects first-round pick Mark Scheifele to push for work in Winnipeg.

Jokinen can see all that's going on around him and he knows if he's going to get the kind of ice time he got last season, he'll have to produce.

There will be more competition for the prime opportunities this season. Last year, Noel kept putting Jokinen on the ice despite a lack of production because he felt he had no one else.

That won't be the case this season.

Jokinen is right when he says we "ain't seen nothing yet."

And we will either see something from him this season or it will be bye bye, Olli.

lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2013 D1

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Updated on Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 6:52 AM CDT: Replaces photo

7:12 AM: adds video

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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