July 01, 2010
The Tokyo Katanas of the Japanese League. Major League Soccer. The surface of Mars. Really, anywhere but the Calgary Flames.
Yet Olli Jokinen is a Flame again, for two years and $3 million per season, according to TSN.
Flames fans were baffled on all forms of social media, because his last tour in Calgary was a flop. The TSN television panel was baffled, to the point where analysis quickly became mockery. Any creature on God's green earth with rational and independent thought -- that isn't named Darryl Sutter -- was baffled.
Yet Olli Jokinen is a Flame again, coming back to Calgary just like Alex Tanguay did earlier in the day.
He recently gave an interview with Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, talking about his prospects as a unrestricted free agent and the hits his reputation has taken in Calgary, Phoenix and Florida. Does he get a bum rap?
Obviously if there's 25 guys on the team, there could be one or two guys who say, ‘You know what, he's the biggest [jerk].' But if 99 percent of the guys you played with like you, I think that's OK, you know? I think it's pretty obvious what a couple media people try to do. It's pretty much coming out of those few people's mouth.
I don't know if you read anything last year when you were up in Calgary with Minnesota, there was one reporter who was saying, ‘Put all the blame on Olli.' He wrote a story saying I'm a bad guy and all that stuff. The whole media and everybody picks up that story. Then day after when Iginla and all my ex-teammates are defending me, that story is only in one paper. Nobody picks up that story nationwide. Usually stuff like that doesn't sell. People can say what kind of bad guy you are and all of that stuff, but it's hurtful. It's definitely been tough being traded few times, but I think it comes with the salary, comes with the price tag, you know?"
And really, there's nothing the Canadian hockey media enjoys more than to be called out by an underperforming player ...
Bringing Jokinen back fits a pattern for general manager Darryl Sutter who has his own view of what's right and what's wrong - and doesn't care what you, me or Pierre McGuire on the TSN panel thinks. Sutter is stubborn. Sutter knows his own mind. Sutter hates to admit mistakes. Jokinen's first stay with the Flames couldn't have been any worse; the assumption is that if Jokinen is playing a different role with someone not named Jarome Iginla(notes), it has to be better. That will vindicate Sutter, in his own mind anyway, and get all those critics to grudgingly see the wisdom of his plan, which seems to elude everybody else.
Therein lies the potential benefit from this move for the Calgary Flames. Jokinen will not be counted on as a No. 1 center. He'll no longer be pulling down an elephantine $5.25 million against the cap per season and failing to hit either 30 goals or 60 points. Maybe, with adjusted expectations, the fans' reaction and the teammates' perceptions will change.
Darryl Sutter clearly believes in second chances, which is admirable.
Yet Olli Jokinen is a Flame again.