Yesterday, a Finnish interview with Karpat’s head coach, Mikko Manner, made its way around Twitter in which he spoke about Jesse Puljujarvi’s SM-Liiga season and what may come next for the former 4th overall pick.
I think it goes without saying that Jesse Puljujarvi’s tenure with the Edmonton Oilers was riddled with mistakes from the moment he was drafted until the time he signed over in Finland for this past season. From an organizational standpoint, the Oilers maintained consistency by trying to rush one of their prized prospects into the NHL far too early and it triggered a death spiral that neither side was able to recover from. The team expected too much, the player couldn’t deliver, and both sides struggled as a result. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Flipping the coin, Puljujarvi was never able to find traction in the limited minutes he did get, not exactly surprising since he often found himself on the third or fourth line while averaging 12:28 over parts of three seasons, and it was clear that his confidence was shaken to the point of being afraid to make a mistake rather than feeling secure enough to make plays. Not to mention, the bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL without ever really being given the time on the farm to truly work out the kinks. Needless to say, it was a mess. So when he signed on to play the year for Karpat, it wasn’t exactly surprising after the whole offseason was spent hearing about how he would never play for the Oilers again.
Everyone knows the story — no need to rehash it all here now.
Looking at the interview we’re actually here to discuss, Karpat’s head coach, Mikko Manner, had nothing but glowing comments when it came Puljujarvi’s season that saw him put up 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in 56 games played. Keep in mind that the translations to English from Finnish can be a little bit rough:
“He played a nearly perfect season. There are many people who have told him what he should do and what he should be like, but Jesse made the perfectly right decision when he decided to return to the familiar club and he played a big role.”
Seeing as Puljujarvi’s confidence on the ice and regarding his role with his NHL team was clearly shaken, I too agree that a year spent at home in familiar surroundings could be exactly what he needed to get his offensive touch back a little bit. In Makker’s opinion, getting the love of playing hockey back was something the Puljujarvi desperately needed and he was seemingly able to accomplish that goal this season with Karpat.
“This season has definitely restored his joy of playing, self-confidence and the feeling that he is important. The next step (for Puljujarvi) will be to develop the details and skills to strengthen his mental, tactical, and technical foundation for his game.”
To me, this sounds like Manner is talking about a player that he expects to see again whenever the SM-Liiga is able to get going again. Maybe it’s a pitch for Puljujarvi to stay back home and continue the improvements he’s made, but that’s obviously a lot of conjecture on my part. Manner also said in the interview that Puljujarvi is the most single popular player in the SM-Liiga, which is certainly believable based on his big smile and the way he can lick his own eyebrows and I just wanted to throw that in here as one last point of good news.
From the day he was drafted until now, I’ve always been hoping that the story between the Oilers and Jesse Puljujarvi would have a happy ending even though it seems more and more unlikely with each passing day. That said, from a human perspective, I am happy to hear that Puljujarvi’s confidence has come back and that’s getting himself back to being the player he hoped to be. Even if things don’t work out with the Oilers (they won’t), having him be at his best will be important considering he’s still an asset that this team can use in a trade to try and bolster the roster in other areas. What kind of return might he fetch? That’s an interesting question that can only be answered in time, but if Ken Holland’s deadline day comments are any indication (“No, I haven’t really shopped him and no one has really asked”) then we could be in for another year or more of this stalemate. I honestly hope that’s not the case for both sides, but as always, I’m only a simple blogger and all I can really do is guess. Just like everything else in life right now, we wait.
PULJUJARVI’S 2019-20 SEASON