CALGARY -- On the surface, it’s easy to say the Olli Jokinen experiment is a flop.
In the 11th game of the campaign, last season’s major trade-deadline acquisition finally scored his second goal. He has only six points.
That’s hardly the production expected when Jokinen came from the Phoenix Coyotes.
However, head coach Brent Sutter showed he believes talented players can build their way up in his system — look at the way defence partners Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf worked their way out of early season struggles — and is adamant Jokinen will hit his high gear.
“Olli’s really working on his game,” Sutter insisted after Thursday’s practice. “He’s finding his way like everyone else is here. Do we need more from him? We need our best players to be our best players, that’s accountability and responsibility, but I think Olli has had some really good games and had some games that have been average.
“Yet, he knows it and he’s working on it to make himself better. That’s important. He’s the first one to ask questions and wants to make himself a better player. It’s not Olli’s fault he’s been able to do certain things because he’s come through certain programs. He comes somewhere new and things change. It has here.
“The thing about Olli is he cares. He wants to get better and wants the team to do well. Those are tremendous starting points.”
Whether fans believe a four-time 30-goal scorer needs a starting point can be debated. But that’s where the Flames are with Jokinen, Sutter insists.
After years of being the focal point offensively in Florida where making the playoffs was a pipe dream, Jokinen is adjusting to being a link in the chain for a winning team, says the coach.
“It is different because you’re playing more of a team game and have to work within a team concept now, not have everyone working for you,” Sutter said. “You have to work like everyone else to do things the right way, find space and work for the puck.
“We revolve the game around everyone who puts their skates on that night.
“He’s working on it. Here’s a player that isn’t accustomed to doing it the way we want it done, and he’s finding his way through it.”
Scoring in Calgary’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night could help. After all, it’s the first regular-season home-ice tally Jokinen has collected since becoming a Flame.
But Jokinen appears caught between trying to equal past offensive success while playing the solid defensive game the coaches want.
“There’s always room to improve. You can’t be too happy. You get paid the big money, you’ve got to produce on the ice. My job is to play hard every night, every time I step on the ice do those little things right, and play well,” he said.
“Goals and points will come. The bottom line is do the things the coaches want guys to do. You play for the team, play for the win, not necessarily the goals and points.”
True, but for the US$5.5 million the Flames are paying Jokinen, there are expectations.
Bang for the buck is part of the equation.
He knows it would help to put more shots on net. Through 11 games, Jokinen has fired 20 shots on goal. In his best seasons with the Panthers, Jokinen’s shot total at the end of the year was around 350.
“It comes with the position you play. (In Florida) I was playing the point on the powerplay, getting a lot of shots from there. Basically, the powerplay was pass to Olli and Olli shoots. That was the way. So I had some games 10 shots,” he said.
“But you can’t score without shooting. I’ve been looking to pass too much. In the pre-season, it was probably a more shooting mentality and now it’s coming again.
“I’ve probably got to be a little more selfish.”