SUN Hockey Pool

Jokinen eager for fresh start

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Olli Jokinen couldn't escape the foul memory of his first playoff experience.

His Calgary Flames were unceremoniously bounced by the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round last spring, and it bothered him early this summer. But he didn't brood too long.

"You can't feel sorry all summer," Jokinen said. "It's no point. But it's definitely in the back of your mind, back of your head.

"We started sliding at the end of the regular season and never bounced back. We have to be ready from the start of training camp and go from there."

Most Flames players gathered yesterday for the team's annual charity golf tournament, with training camp just around the corner. Rookies report for physicals Tuesday, while the veterans gather next Saturday.

For Jokinen, it's the chance to be part of the Flames from the first day, having joined the team at the trade deadline last season.

"It's easier now. I've got my family here, the house. It's like a normal life outside of hockey. That way, you feel more comfortable," said Jokinen, who arrived in Calgary amidst the slew of potential Canadian Olympians last week. "It's a fresh start for every guy. With all the changes this summer, the coaches -- not just Brent (Sutter) coming, but new assistants, too -- I think it's all positive.

"Everybody wants to get started. We can't wait."

The Flames will obviously have a younger, less proven, crew of forwards this season, which means more onus to score will be placed on the likes of Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow and Jokinen.

The 31-year-old centre Jokinen is fine with those expectations and should return to the 35-goal, 90-point range this year.

But the real test will be in the spring. His first foray into the Stanley Cup playoffs was OK statistically -- two goals and five points in six games -- but Jokinen wants a better showing next time around.

"You have ups and downs and have to find a way to figure it out," he said. "It was a disappointment, that's for sure, losing out in the first round. It wasn't what we were expecting, but it's part of this business. We have to find a way to be hungrier and try to do better."

One player who will help immensely, Jokinen believes, is defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. They were teammates five seasons in Florida, and Jokinen knows what the new star is capable of achieving.

"I've been saying the last three or four years, if he played in a big hockey market, he would have been a Norris Trophy candidate, for sure," Jokinen said. "You appreciate him once you start seeing him every day and battling him in practices.

"In my mind, he's among the top three or top five defenceman in the our league. He can play any role, will log a lot of minutes. He's the guy who has the potential to score 20 goals. It sounds crazy, but he's scored 15 goals."

There remains one major order of business on Jokinen's horizon. He's due to become an unrestricted free agent after this coming season.

"I like it here, my family is settled," he said. "I was eight years in Florida and last year had a couple moves. The experience I had here last year, the way the Flames handled everything and the people, there's no better place to play."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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