Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

History Suggests the Oilers Shouldn’t Give up on Jussi Jokinen

I’ve always felt as though Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli does his best work on the peripheries of his lineup.

Is that damning with faint praise? Perhaps, but it’s not meant to be tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic. Take this off-season, for example. Chiarelli put the Oilers in cap hell, certainly, but some credit is due for what he did with the pennies left in his pocket after the Kris Russel and Leon Draisaitl extensions.

The Yohann Auvitu Contract was a savvy gamble on a player who showed well in a smaller sample with high-upside and no real risk. Ty Rattie as AHL depth with unrealized NHL potential made sense, too. And all this came after some, mostly, tidy work retaining the Oilers’ own. Best of all, though, was the move to sign Jussi Jokinen to a one-year deal for just $1.1-million.

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Here was then-OilersNation’s writer and current Nation Network columnist Jonathan Willis on the signing at the time…

The Edmonton Oilers’ addition of Jussi Jokinen on a bargain bin contract last week was a good one, because the Finnish wing brings an established level of ability to the club, something that the team badly needed at that position.

To say it hasn’t gone according to plan since would be something of an understatement. Jokinen has but one assist in the nine games he’s played and was a healthy scratch as recently as last Tuesday’s 2-1 loss in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The most recent report out of Edmonton concerning Jokinen indicates the club may already be out of patience. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector is reporting that the Oilers are looking to deal Jokinen, and Chris Johnston even went so far as to suggest that they could consider putting him on waivers for reassignment if they couldn’t consummate a deal.

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All of this gave me flashbacks. No, not to when the Florida Panthers bought him out this off-season to set the stage for his one-year pact with the Oilers. I’m thinking a bit further back, all the way to 2012-13.

Jokinen started that season with the Carolina Hurricanes, but poor on-ice on personal shooting percentages submarined his offensive production to just 11 points in 33 games. The Hurricanes GM at the time, Jim Rutherford, first reassigned Jokinen to their farm team, then followed it up by trading him for pennies on the dollar to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the final ten games with of the season with the Penguins, Jokinen put up 11 points. In the three seasons that followed Jokinen averaged over 53 points with the Penguins and Panthers respectively.

That was five seasons ago, so I can’t say with any confidence that I expect Jokinen to bounce with the Oilers or any other team to the tune of an over a point per game pace in any kind of worthwhile sample. Jokinen is 34-years-old now so that just isn’t realistic.

It’s far more unrealistic to expect Jokinen to continue at this pace offensively. Let me explain.

There’s a legitimate case for Jokinen as one of the most effective members of the Oilers supporting cast. The Oilers control their highest ratio of on-ice shot attempts at five-on-five with Jokinen on the ice and the best ratio of expected goals. The Oilers are generating unblocked shot attempts and expected goals with Jokinen on the ice, too.

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It’s not like the Oilers are generating good control of the puck and scoring chances due to Jokinen shutting things down. Quite the opposite is true. Goals aside, the underlying data suggests the Oilers have been at their offensive best with Jokinen on the ice.

Small sample warnings abound, but if I’m the Oilers, I’m more concerned about reacting to results-based statistics than process-oriented ones over a nine-game look because the more layers you peel off this onion, the less pungent the scent.

Personally, Jokinen isn’t quite as prolific. He’s only the third-most productive Oilers player at generating unblocked shot attempts (13.63 an hour) and fourth-most productive at generating expected goals (0.81 an hour).

Finding cheap help at the bottom of the Oilers lineup is going to become an annual chore. This off-season might’ve been the first snapshot into a world after the McDavid and Draisaitl extensions. And the Jokinen deal is proof that Chiarelli still has a good eye for cheap help.

You’d hate to have the Oilers not think this through and pick apart pieces off the bottom of their roster that could otherwise prove useful with a little bit of patience. And Jokinen can be just that. It’s not often you can find players with special teams chops and the versatility to play every forward position relatively well for just a song in free agency. And when Jokinen starts to get the odd bounce, that’s exactly what the Oilers will have.

  • OldOilFan

    Very sensible “take” on the current state of affairs, JD, but I sense there is something more going on -or going wrong- with the Oil. The Pens were able to make the salary structure work (i.e. a few multi millionaires supported by $1M role players). Maybe Pitt was just lucky? This season, Pitt’s post-Cup gambles (letting Neal and Kunitz and Bonino and others walk) appear to be undermining their basis for success – and more Cups. The Oilers don’t look to have a Bonino or Sheary on tap in Bakersfield. Yam is the one and only prospect looking to make a difference. Maybe [with him] the Oilers get some Pitt-style luck. Hope so, anyway.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Yeah, but Crosby was signed in an 8.7 AAV world of yesteryear(but he did take a bit of a discount because the man wanted cups).

      When you get McDavid in a cap era, well, you get McDavid in a cap era.

      • MrBung

        Oilers signing of McDavid is not the issue around current and future Oiler success as much as the ability to identify talent and value it for the pieces placed around him and the “core”. Additionally, there is some degree of luck involved – especially with draft selection of talent coming from within.

    • BendingCorners

      But he knows where to stand so he can contribute, just not on a line with the Oilers’ fastest forwards and not against the other team’s fastest forwards.

  • TruthHurts98

    I’ve been watching Oiler games and Jokinen does shoot but none of his shots are hard or what I consider good scoring chances. He’s slow and doesn’t hit, but is pretty sound defensively. No loss if he’s out of the lineup in my opinion. I would rather Khaira get ice time and develop into a better player if this team isn’t going to contend. The NHL is much faster and younger this year and I think time isn’t on JJ’s side anymore.

    • Orm Nullman

      I went to NHL numbers where they report an average age for each teams roster for both 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. I calculated a league average age from that data. Turns out that based on that data the league average age for 2016-17 was 27.0759 years and for 2017-18 is 27.07839 years. Therefore this year the league is on average older by 0.00249 years or about 1 day which is not much at all. I don’t know if the league is faster or slower this year but I suspect that the overall change is about the same order of magnitude as the average age or not much at all.

  • Consultant

    Another week in Bakersfield then Puljujarvi will be called up. His numbers (now 0-3 in 7 games) will be similar Draisaitl’s in his draft plus two AHL games (1-1 in 6 games). Puljujarvi recently had 9 shots in a game. He may not be dominating the AHL but he is a match for what is needed, a right winger with size, speed and likes to shoot.
    Jokinen will help Puju immensely.

  • This is a case where the advanced stats do not meet the eye test.
    Was it MacT who said some of our players at their best are a non-factor? That sums up Jokinen to me, doesn’t seem to be a factor in the game, but it’s not like anyone other than McD, Drai, Nuge and at times Talbot have been anything greater than a non-factor this season.
    Look at what Vegas is doing with their ragtag group of misfits, players that were written off as perennial ‘tweeners’ (with a few exceptions).

    • Anton CP

      Knights are starting to running out of luck, they are down to their 4th goalie as starter and their high prized FA decided to tell McPhee to f-off and will be returning to Russia. McPhee wants to be greedy and took bunch of d-man as draft pick bait but he can’t ship them out as soon as he would like to (you will burn a few bridges when you decided to held ransom on all other 30 teams). So now, they are on losing streak and with the 4th still in the net that they have no end in sight if they can recover enough.

  • Svart kaffe

    So far Jokinen has been absolutely invisible but a friend who saw every Panthers game two years ago said this might just be the best low-key signing of the entire off-season. I’m still waiting for proof though but usually he has a point and watches way more games and teams than me.

    A lot of players are slow starters as well so 10 games might be a bit soon to rule him out. But if there’s a good trade somewhere that makes sense then go for it.

  • camdog

    The Oilers metrics are fantastic this season, if we went by the metrics the Oilers are a top 5 team. According to the metrics the Oilers shouldn’t make any moves to improve as the wins are just around the corner. Of course if you watch them play you soon realize that the metrics are flawed.

  • RJ

    So for players like Lucic it “Takes time to adjust to new teammates” and
    it “Takes time to adjust to a new system”. For other players, we read “it takes time to adjust to a new conference”. But now the Oilers need to dump Jokinen?

    You can always count on the Oilers brass to use the media to point the finger at someone else.

  • OriginalPouzar

    It would be nice if Jussi could return to at least part of the form he was at a few years ago.

    While smart on the ice, he is so slow and his shot is so weak, I just don’t get how he was ever able to put up multiple 60 plus point seasons.

    Hopefully his game comes together soon and he can be a material bottom 6 player adding value for this team.

    • madjam

      I think of more concern is the poor play and use of Letestu . Two power play goals , but no points other than that , and a rather poor -5 in plus/minus , second worse to Klefbom at -6 . Might explain PK being subpar this season .That is two veterans playing rather poorly .

      • OriginalPouzar

        The issue with Letestu is being asked to play too much and up the lineup. Having Letestu playing anything other than on the 4th line at ES is a mistake and the coach hopefully has realized that. He is an average ES player but does OK as 4C – he provides value on the PK and the PP, however, when he plays too many minutes he struggles.

  • TKB2677

    I keep hearing a ton about how the resigning of Russell put the Oilers in cap hell. I am not here to bash or defend Russell. He makes 4 mill. I have also heard a ton about how Chia screwed up and should have gotten Hamonic. I personally think Hamonic is a slightly better than Russel.

    If the Oilers had of traded for Hamonic, people would have been happy. But Hamonic makes $3.857143. Russell makes 4 mill. So by having Hamonic over Russell, the Oilers would have saved themselves $142,875. So that 142k savings means the Oilers wouldn’t be in cap hell?

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Perhaps you could have traded Eberle and a 1st for Hamonic. Save almost $2m in the trade, then no need to sign Russell, so an extra $4m. Spend that savings on a 2nd line scoring RW. At least on a player that scores more than 30 points in his best years.

  • Roberto

    Too much arrogance at the top of this organization. Chia is willing to make moves which I love but he may be a bit wreckless… Griffin Trade and poor decisions this summer are now biting the Oil.