Aftermath of Jokinen Debacle, What's to Follow?

In less than one week, the climax of the off-season begins. Excited, are you not? Let’s rewind a little bit, though.

The Jokinen trade; why he was traded? I’ll tell you why. And, is Jay-Bo to follow?Well my fellow hockey fans, my MBA term is finally over and I can concentrate on hockey full-time. I had a nice birthday two days ago. Well, not entirely since I had an exam due that night and I ended up studying most of the day, but I got some cool hockey stuff, and the Zune! This little gadget (Microsoft’s iPod version) is one great gift. I personalized it with art work that you can have engraved on its back. Definitely worth every penny.

Anyway, old mikster is back into talking hockey!

The Olli Jokinen Segment

I spent some time mulling over ths trade. At first I was disappointed, then somewhat please, then dubious, but now feeling positive about it. Let’s make this clear, was this a good trade? Honestly, on paper it was not the best of trades. Definitely not as bad as the Luongo trade, but it was too little for my tastes. Olli Jokinen should have brought more to the Panthers. And you know what? That goes both ways. What do I mean by that? Well, Olli should have brought more to the Panthers as a traded player, but also as a player wearing the Panthers jersey. Still don’t get it? Let’s expand.

The Trade

Nick Boynton is a solid, physical defenseman. Keith Ballard is a skilled two-way defenseman with a physical edge as well, and potential. I like both players. I’d take these two players on many teams any day of the week. Sure, Boynton was on waivers, but he had a bad injury history at the time, not a small contract, and teams had reasons not to claim him on waivers. Put him on waivers after the kind of season he’s had and half the league would put in waiver wire claims to get him. He is a character guy, a real battler. Keith Ballard is an excellent skater with a physical edge. He has offensive potential and plays without fear. He does not back down from bigger forwards. In fact, he actually drops the gloves with them as he did with Vinny Lecavalier once, and did well. Here is another character defenseman who is also a battler and does anything to win. As Darren Pang said, he plays every one of his shifts as if it was his last one.

So, the players are good and there is no question about that. Both are exactly what the Panthers need. Skilled defensemen that are competitive and full of character. Here comes the BUT, though. But, Olli Jokinen has the ability to be a top 10 forward in the league. He has played center and many times on the wing. He is versitile. He can be physical. He has a great skill level. Such a player should bring more than two defensemen to a team when traded. The Panthers should have gotten more in this deal. No question about it.

The player himself

People make the mistake that ever since Jacques Martin arrived in Sunrise, things went the wrong way with Olli Jokinen. WRONG. Jokinen played spectacular hockey under Martin BEFORE Mike Keenan was fired. Ever since Mike Keenan was fired, Olli Jokinen was no longer the same. He was not as determined. He was not as physical sometimes when he should have been. It was almost as if Tomas Vokoun was the real leader of the team as he was the most vocal. Olli Jokinen showed little passion whenever the team played horrible hockey. He didn’t come out, ever, saying his teammates have to step it up. Vokoun did that. It seemed as if Olli Jokinen was not even the captain anymore. And when that happened, things went downhill. He even questioned his role as a captain saying that if someone else can do a better job, he’d leave the leadership post.

Okay, first of all, what kind of captain would ever say that? I mean, this is the guy who took over the team as “The Captain”. He earned that C on his jersey by being strong in all areas. Yet he let things go and backed down. What kind of captain really does that? I can understand when someone like Patrick Elias was given the C and he declined to keep it. I can understand when Mike Modano did it. These guys stepped up and said “we can’t be true captains” after they gave a short-term shot at it. Jokinen was the captain for years and all the sudden he shrugged showing the “anybody else wants to take over?” attitude. To put it simply, Olli Jokinen quit on the Panthers. He had to be traded. There was no reason to keep a moody Olli Jokinen on the team.

I admired Olli Jokinen ever since I moved to Florida. I felt quite disappointed with the way he handled this season as a captain. At times I wished that the NHL would change this stupid rule that goaltenders cannot be captains because Vokoun was taking over the role of a leader. I would have traded Olli Jokinen myself this summer. He was no longer a powerful forward in all areas of the ice. He was horrible defensively. He didn’t create as much offensively. He left his leadership post. Why the hell would anyone want such a player on his team? In addition, Olli growing older at 29, 30 soon. He had two more seasons on his contract and no way that he would have thought about re-signing. Olli Jokinen had to be traded in the most unfortunate manner.

What is Phoenix getting then? Definitely not the Olli Jokinen of this past season’s Panthers. The Yotes are getting a refreshed Olli who has no pressure of being a captain. Expect Jokinen to have an excellent season in Phoenix as they desperately needed a winger with Radim Vrbata leaving for the market next week. Jokinen over Vrbata? ANY DAY OF THE WEEK! Yet, does this mean that the Coyotes will make the playoffs? Don’t bet on it. They just lost two of their top four defensemen. Their defense was better than four teams that made the playoffs. So, while they addressed scoring on the right-wing, by really actually substituting, they lost two key defensemen. Expect Phoenix to try and sign defensemen in the off-season, quite possibly J-M Liles and Brooks Orpik. Actually, the Coyotes kinda HAVE to acquire defensemen of such level because if they don’t then they will not make the playoffs. If they don’t make the playoffs, it would be another year added on Olli’s record of not making a playoff appearance. And, would that impact his decisions on re-signing with the Coyotes? The Coyotes have two years to complete their team, or else they will lose Olli Jokinen. And if that is the case, was it worth losing two core defensemen for a two-year plan? Time will tell.

Speaking of which, what will happen to Jay Bouwmeester? I did not like Luongo getting traded, but his attitude was aggrevating and his dishonesty over contract negotiations was a major turn off. Still, blame Mike Keenan for starting it all. I did not want Olli Jokinen to be traded, but quitting on the team as a captain is counter productive, especially when you have a new coach. Yet, for Jay-Bo….. PLEASE TRADE HIM! As skilled as he is, with such great size, the guy is simply not that good. He is very inconsistent, he has little determination. No character. No passion. Does not stand up for himself or his teammates even. Really, in my five years in Florida, I do not remember once when Jay dropped his gloves. Not once. He backs down from physicality. Now, this guy has the potential to be a Norris Trophy winner. He has the potential to be the next Scotty Niedermeyer. Yet, he lacks that drive. He lacks the passion. Frankly, I can’t stand young players that do that. This guy will never reach his potential in South Florida.

Why?

He wants to be in the spotlight. I won’t even say that it’s about winning, or even about Olli Jokinen. This guy was never meant to be a Florida Panther. He would rather play for the Edmonton Oilers finishing a season in the last five spots in the NHL than to play with the Panthers finishing a few points behind the 8th seed.

So you know what? Please trade him. The Panthers need character players. They need competitors. Players that are hungry and want to win. Jay Bouwmeester is not that kind of players; not for the Panthers. If he is to be traded, expect the Blackhawks, Oilers, Devils, Islanders, and crapload of other teams looking to get him.

For all I know, this is a new era for the Panthers. A fresh, young head coach who seems very determined. Two new defensemen that give much depth on the team. No more Olli Jokinen, so who will wear the C? It’s said that Stephen Weiss will be the one getting it. What about free agents? They definitely need a top six forward. More youth on the way? Finally the Panthers have their own AHL affiliate team in Rochester. That’s a big step into developing young talent. Shawn Matthias may make the team. Michal Frolik is soon to make the big step in the NHL, but probably in need of AHL action. Same with Repik. Ken McArdle is also looking for his first full season in the AHL. More youth is coming to South Florida, in a better system.

The Panthers have the goaltending. They have the defense. In theory, you build a team from the back end and on forward. Martin got his goalie, Tomas Vokoun who had a very good season. He has a defensive core of Allen, Van Ryn, Ballard, Boynton, and pending situation with Jay Bouwmeester. If your defense, and goaltending, is solid, then you have a chance to win any game of the week.

The Panthers may once again make the headlines this summer if Jay Bouwmeester is traded, or if a team tenders an offer sheet, which may come next week as well. How crazy would that be? Still, I expect a team to make such an offer sheet, but not so astronomical either. If the offer sheet is anything under $7M p/y, the Panthers will match it. Anything over that, and they won’t, and stupid would be the GM to offer more than $7M and lose four first rounders.

All I know is that GM Jacques Martin is not done yet. He can’t be done yet. He has to make the playoffs and to do so, he has to be busy this summer. Keep your eyes open in South Florida my fellow hockey fans.

And my final word is…..

I also got The Offspring’s new album titled Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. I’ve always been an Offspring fan, even through their pop years. I have to admit, this album goes back to the punk rock of the 90′s that I grew up with. Some songs remind me of the albums Smash and Ignition. So, it’s a very good CD, I liked it, and if you’re into such punk rock, then I’d recommend it.

Thanks for reading as always,

Micki Peroni

Vice-Admin