Jussi Jokinen Valuable for Young Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are going to be a very young team next year. At least, that’s what we’re told.

Those were the words from president Trevor Linden during the team’s season-ending media availability. While head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning weren’t as cutthroat, Linden had no problem suggesting the Canucks will go with a very young lineup. He also suggested that the team would sit “several million” below the salary cap limit.

As it stands, the Canucks only have three players over 30 years old. One of them is spare defenceman Alex Biega, who’s 30 while the other two are 32-year-olds Alex Edler and Loui Eriksson. For years, the Canucks were touted as a old team. Even last year, they had Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Thomas Vanek as their top-five leading scorers. The 2018-19 season should finally become the one where they drop the narrative of being an old and slow team.

After this, am I really going to tell you why Jussi Jokinen should be considered for a roster spot? I mean, this guy did cost the Canucks the draft lottery.


Jokinen Can Still Play

The only reason Jokinen cost the Canucks their spot in the draft lottery was that he made the most of his opportunity down the stretch. After floundering in limited minutes with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets, Jokinen made the most of his minutes in Vancouver.

Jokinen’s 2.57 points per 60 at even strength was best on the Canucks after the trade deadline, and it wasn’t close. The next closest player, Nikolay Goldobin, had 1.92 points per 60 in the same time span. On a team that failed to produce much offence, Jokinen was a lone bright spot.

He did earn some extra time because of the injury-riddled lineup, but it wasn’t like he was logging heavy minutes. He averaged 12:49 in his 14 games, which was 11th among forwards after the trade deadline. Guys like Tyler Motte and Darren Archibald averaged more minutes than the surprisingly productive Jokinen.

Jussi Jokinen #36 of the Vancouver Canucks
Jussi Jokinen could provide depth for the Canucks at a reasonable cost. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Despite piling up the points, Jokinen was actually relied upon defensively for the majority of his shifts. His offensive zone start percentage of 34.38 was fourth-lowest on the Canucks after the deadline. Even though he started the majority of his shifts in his own end, he was creative in the offensive zone. He looked like a guy who had almost 1000 games of NHL experience, compared to guys like Brendan Leipsic who produced well for a few games before disappearing.

Green (and most coaches around the NHL) always talk about making young guys earn their minutes. However, with all the injuries on the Canucks roster, guys like Leipsic were handed minutes that perhaps they hadn’t earned. Jokinen, however, played like he was fighting for his career on every shift. For a guy that seemed done in the NHL, the fact that he registered 10 points in 14 games effectively changed that conversation.

Jokinen Insulates Young Canucks Team

Coaches and general managers always speak about needing “veteran leadership” on a young team. There is merit to that argument, but it often becomes overstated. Look at the 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs who surprisingly made the playoffs. The only veterans over 30 years old making contributions on that team were Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov. Even those guys were just passed the 30-year-old mark at the start of the season.

Having Jokinen suit up for the Canucks next year isn’t so much about veteran leadership as it is about insulating a young roster. Without taking into consideration any acquisitions they might make, there is the possibility that the team starts the season with three rookies next year. Elias Pettersson seems to be a lock after his stellar season in the SHL. Adam Gaudette impressed with his five-game audition and Jonathan Dahlen could also push for a full-time spot.

That doesn’t take into consideration some of the forwards with less than 100 NHL games, like Boeser, Goldobin, Motte and Leipsic. Aside from Boeser and Bo Horvat, you could chalk in a question mark beside most forwards on the roster. One guy who has proven he can score at the NHL level is Jokinen.

Jussi Jokinen Oilers
Jussi Jokinen isn’t as poor as his production with the Edmonton Oilers or Columbus Blue Jackets would suggest. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

You know he’ll be motivated to prolong his NHL career as well. After bouncing around nine different NHL organizations, he sits at 951 career games. He should be motivated to become the seventh Finnish player in NHL history to hit 1,000 career games, following in the footsteps of Teemu Selanne, Jari Kurri, Kimmo Timonen, Olli Jokinen, Teppo Numminen, and Saku Koivu.

He would also provide versatility up and down the lineup, could play special teams, and would be easy enough to move if the rookies shine. He already has the trust of Green after earning his keep towards the end of the season. One question Canucks management might have would be if Jokinen’s production is reliable. He had 10 points in 14 games, but also put up just two assists in 28 games between the Oilers and Blue Jackets.

Jokinen’s true value lies somewhere in the middle of those totals. He isn’t going to score at a 60-point pace, nor will he hold a 21 percent shooting percentage like he did with the Canucks. However, he isn’t as bad as his point totals with the Oilers and Blue Jackets reflect. For a team lacking offensive talent and versatile players, Jokinen coming back to the Canucks makes sense on more than one level.