Since the Winnipeg Jets have returned to The Gateway to the West, I have been a man divided. Constantly at odds with myself, I spent the majority of the 2011-12 season mulling over different scenarios through internalization. Burning questions etched themselves in my mind as I struggled to understand whether certain on-ice trends were aberrations or whether they spoke to the overall theme that the year would entail. This offseason, things have not improved. More and more these questions linger as I struggle to answer them the best I can.
This week, we will be highlighting the five most important questions surrounding the Winnipeg Jets as the 2012-13 regular season approaches.
Today, I review the offseason signing of Olli Jokinen.
Can you tell me why the Jets decided to sign soon-to-be 34 year old Olli Jokinen to a 2-year 4.5MM contract. Are they crazy?!
I don't know what led you to that conclusion.
As if I should be surprised you disagree...
Obviously depth at centre was a glaring weakness for this team last year. Jim Slater was the only reliable face-off taker for the Jets since Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov were downright putrid in the dots, both finishing the season with a FO% under 45%. That forced Claude Noel to rely too heavily on the fan favourite GST line in the defensive zone, which -- more often than not -- led to getting scored on. Not that Jokinen is a world-beater at winning face-offs (posting 46% and 47% success rates his past two years), but he's markedly better than the Russian duo of Antropov and Burmistrov. With Jokinen's addition, Noel has the flexibility to shift Burmistrov to a wing position, if he so chooses.
Not to mention that Jokinen was one of the most coveted centres on this summers UFA market. Such was evidenced by the contract he's being awarded.
Pssh, 4.5MM for a guy to win 4.5/10 faceoffs. Get real! Now that he's calling Winnipeg home, what can fans expect from him in terms of production?
Keeping in mind that he turns 34 years old in December, fans shouldn't expect him to post consecutive 60-point seasons with the Jets. I fear that -- because he makes a ton of money -- he will be ostracized like Nik Antropov and Ron Hainsey because people can't see their underlying value.
Not to say that an underwhelming statistical season from Jokinen shouldn't be criticized, but if he were to score around 50 points -- which he should -- then he is well worth the investment. His addition will make life easier on the rest of the team's top-six.
Only fifty!? You dolt! That seems pretty low considering he currently boasts the highest average annual value of any Winnipeg forward. How will Claude Noel utilize him?