Former NHL hockey player Jussi Jokinen announced his retirement from professional hockey last week. Jokinen played with nine different teams over 13 seasons, amassing 191 goals and 563 points.
His dazzling moves embroidered his career as a shootout specialist. He often froze opposing goaltenders by skating in close during his shootout attempts and skillfully wrapping the puck into the net. Usually, goalies expected shots from the slot, and Jokinen was one of the first shooters to use his creativity to dumbfound an opposing netminder. His prowess in the shootout led to him being named one of the most memorable shootout specialists in NHL history.
Jokinen was quickly labeled as a shootout specialist in his rookie season, miraculously converting his first nine consecutive shootout attempts. He ended the season 10 for 13 and finished first in the league in shootout goals and shootout percentage. The NHL introduced the shootout before the 2005-06 season as a part of a new collective bargaining agreement. When Jokinen was with the Carolina Hurricanes, he told NHL.com writer Michael Smith that the shootout was adopted in Finland two years before the NHL.
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His shootout stats in Finland were ok at best, and, by his own account, he needed to get better and spent extra time practicing one-on-one against a goalie. “I started to work on my shootout moves a little bit more, the low blocker and the one-handed move,” he said. “I still spend time over the summer practicing those moves and some new ones.”
Jokinen’s approach during shootouts mixed his skill as a shooter with his mentality in a one-on-one situation. When facing Tim Thomas, he skated directly to the goaltender before making his move. Other times, he used a more methodical and roundabout path to the net to fool a goaltender that tried to predict his movement. His use and seamless execution of the one-handed shot pushed him into the higher echelon of early shootout scorers.
The Dallas Stars drafted Jokinen in the sixth round of the 2001 Draft out of Finland. He spent four years with Kärpät in the SM-Liga in Finland before making his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season.
While he established himself as a shootout specialist, he had separate 50-plus point seasons with the Stars, Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Florida Panthers. He almost made my list of “3 Stars’ Draft Picks Who Didn’t Work Out in Dallas,” but due to varying problems, like inconsistent play and constantly moving teams, his time in Dallas is comparable to what he did elsewhere.
He had 131 points over 215 games, averaging .61 points per game in Dallas. That is slightly better than what he did in Florida, averaging .57 points per game while totaling 132 points in 231 games, and somewhat worse than his time in Carolina, averaging .64 points per game with 185 points in 288 games.
His stint in Dallas goes unnoticed mainly compared to the rest of his career stats, but his time with the Stars would set the model for playing with other teams. Jokinen played an average of 13 minutes a night with Dallas, primarily because the 2005-06 team was flush with talent. He was leaned on more on in Carolina and Florida, averaging around 17 minutes of ice time a night for both teams.
Jokinen, as a player, had a fruitful but fluctuant career. He had flashes of greatness, posting multiple 50-point seasons while skating on the second or third line. He was gifted in the shootout and was unstoppable for nearly 10 seasons. He even came up clutch in the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins during their 2013-14 playoff run.