Of the six free agents that Dale Tallon signed on July 1st, 2014, Jussi Jokinen was the second most expensive, as his four year contract paid out a total of $16 million. The first year of that contract could have gone better, but it wasn't a disappointment, and if put in a position to succeed, Jokinen could live up to expectations in 2015-2016.
Before we get into Jokinen's play, I want to share some thoughts from Justin Bourne with you.
I find it's common for rec players - hell, & some pros - to operate in two modes with the puck: I'm either trying this on my own, or I'm— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) August 18, 2015
passing it. It's absurdly difficult to push a defender offensively while remaining open to the idea of a pass if someone suddenly gets open.— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) August 18, 2015
It causes a lot of problems with the puck, this me-or-someone-else mindset. I'd love to say— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) August 18, 2015
"try to avoid that," but I know how hard it is to keep track of your surroundings while challenging someone.— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) August 18, 2015
Now, while reading that, the type of player that Jokinen is should have immediately popped into your mind; he is constantly in the "passing it" frame of mind. While this helps him create tons of scoring chances for his teammates (he was second on the team with 36 assists), it results in the Finnish forward passing up on great scoring opportunities. There were plenty of times throughout the season where Jokinen passed or held onto the puck for too long when he should have shot because he was looking to make the perfect play.
Here's an example of when his high-caliber passing skills end well for the team:
Unfortunately, there are also times when his pass-first mentality doesn't help the team.
When Jokinen does decide to shoot, he actually has a decent shot. If he were to pull the trigger more often, or try and take the puck to the net, there's little doubt in my mind that he would create more offense.
Defensively, Jokinen is a solid, though unimpressive, player. He gets the job done, and isn't a liability in his own zone.
Overall, Jokinen is an average player, though his dCorsi intrigues me. He essentially split time between the second and third lines last season, but under-performed expectations and may not be capable of fulfilling such a role anymore. The best option may be to play him on the third line, where he can gel with a possession center and create offense that way.
When it comes to passing statistics, Jokinen really shines. He ranks 19th in the league in composite SAGs per 60 minutes (out of skaters with 200 minutes tracked), and his shot attempt contribution per 60 minutes of 26.93 is 81st in the league, which is still impressive. By comparison, Claude Giroux contributes to 26.98 shot attempts per 60 minutes.
The statistics match the eye test in this case. Jokinen's passing rate is in the top 20 of the league, but his shot attempts rate is 349th in the league out of 442 skaters who played at least 200 minutes.
Overall, Jokinen is a very interesting player, who is hard to get a read on. On one hand, he appears to be an high-end playmaking winger, who can create scoring chances for his linemates consistently, while providing adequate defensive play. On the other hand, he's a decent player who lacks "killer instinct", which results in his team's offense and possession numbers hurting because of it.
I do think that if you could get Jokinen to be a bit more trigger happy, you would see better results (both offensively and possession-wise). By being so hesitant to shoot, the Finn would sometimes turn the puck over in the offensive zone without getting a shot attempt off, which hurts a lot more than it helps.
With the first line all but penciled in stone (Jagr - Barkov - Huberdeau), and the second line essentially guaranteed to be some combination of Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, and Brandon Pirri, it will be interesting to see where Jokinen fits in the lineup. He could go on the third line, either with Vincent Trocheck or Dave Bolland in the middle, or he could play up on the second line in place of Smith or Pirri.
All of the above speculation is for opening night, of course. Injuries and slumps are bound to happen over an 82-game season, and having a flexible player like Jokinen on the roster is going to be more helpful than not.
He may not put up great point totals, and he may not dominate the opposition, but there's no denying that the 32-year-old will be a contributor to the success of the Florida Panthers in 2015-2016.