The Long Farewell
Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
“Twenty games in and I have one goal. It’s sad. “I’ve been thinking a lot how to do things differently. Right now, I just don’t have the answer.” – Jesse Puljujarvi, Dec. 6, 2022.
Say what you want about Puljujarvi, the interview he did with Finnish journalist Tommi Seppälä of YLE Tuesday had plenty of bite in it. Uncomfortable truths, like the doubts the likeable and lanky Edmonton Oilers forward shared with Seppälä, translated for an article by Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, tend to work that way.
Puljujarvi, 24, is 286 games into his NHL career, a tenure already interrupted with him spending parts of two seasons with Karpat at home in Finland when things weren’t going his way with the Oilers. After two promising seasons back in Edmonton since his return, it’s obvious Puljujarvi is again unsure about where and if he fits with this team and this league.
“Of course, I’d like to be a productive top-line player, but right now, it looks like I can’t do that in NHL,” Puljujarvi said. “Maybe some other league.” The Spector piece is here.
NOT MUCH MIDDLE GROUND
Nov 30, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (13) celebrates with forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) after Nugent-Hopkins scored a goal in the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Puljujarvi has been as polarizing a player as the Oilers have employed in some time. After two seasons in which Puljujarvi appeared to be finding his offensive chops, he has struggled mightily to replicate the flashes of production he showed despite lots of prime ice time alongside Connor McDavid.
Puljujarvi’s modest numbers this season have his fans focusing on underlying statistics that they insist indicate he’s been a highly effective player despite his lack of offensive production. For others, it’s simpler than that. Just put the puck in the net and we’ll talk. Show us some numbers that end up on the scoresheet already. It hasn’t happened. So here we are.
“It’s hard to tell why I’m not scoring,” said Puljujarvi, who has taken the body more this season than in any other. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I scored earlier and I think now I’m older, more experienced and a better player. Yet I’m not scoring. If you play with Connor, you have to score. Maybe I just don’t have it.”
Now without a goal in his last 20 games and playing down the line-up with Dylan Holloway and James Hamblin in an 8-2 laugher over the road-weary Arizona Coyotes last night, Puljujarvi played 11:29. He got no sniff, bupkis, on three shots.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At the bottom line, I can’t imagine Puljujarvi being with the Oilers beyond this season. Might another team come calling on GM Ken Holland this season looking to make a deal? Sure. It’s possible, but not probable. How many takers are there for a non-productive forward making $3 million? My guess is that if Holland could have made a deal to move Puljujarvi by now he would have already done it.
I think it’s more likely Puljujarvi goes the “maybe some other league” route and ends up playing back in Finland. He’s made a nice chunk of NHL change here. He has the luxury of playing at home with Karpat in the SM-liiga, where he can “be a productive top-line player.” I’m guessing the answers Puljujarvi can’t seem to find here might be there.
PULJUJARVI’S SEASON SO FAR