CALGARY - When Olli Jokinen went into a terrible slump late in the NHL regular season, it was at that point he informed the Calgary Flames he was injured.
Jokinen didn’t come out of the lineup after the declaration March 22, right before the Flames faced the Minnesota Wild.
He stayed in, kept playing with what is now known as a torn abdominal muscle, and he was downright dreadful down the stretch.
Going minus-10 with a couple of goals in a six-game stretch following the loss to the Wild during which the Flames were fighting for their playoff lives certainly hurt his cause as a pending free agent.
It probably hurt Jokinen in the pocketbook as much as it did the Flames on the ice.
The stretch seemed to confirm what has long been the biggest knock on Jokinen — he fades when the games get tough. He’s never been on a playoff-bound NHL team when he spends the year in the same place.
So when the Flames announced Friday that Jokinen had surgery May 1 in Philadelphia to repair the injury — and recovery will take about a month — even the least cynical people had to raise a curious eyebrow.
Teams don’t usually announce a player’s minor off-season surgery.
If they did, the e-mail box would be flooded with updates, and players would then be questioned about every tiny procedure they get.
So why did the Flames do it?
It appears likely Jokinen will part ways with the team July 1, due in part to the money and term he expects to ask for following a bounce-back 23-goal, 61-point season during which he was second on the team in points only to Jarome Iginla.
Was it a favour to Jokinen and his agent Ian Pulver? Could they possibly be helping Jokinen in his case to cash in with another team?
Pulver certainly was doing damage control as Jokinen’s play dropped off. He argued his client’s case to Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis in the final week of the regular season.
“He has played with some significant mid-body injuries to try doing the best he could for the team,” Pulver told the Sun.
“Olli is somewhat of an ironman. He hasn’t missed a game, and he should be applauded.”
Injuries aren’t used as excuses in the NHL. Every player deals with his own problems, and Jokinen — to his credit — never blamed his problem for the on-ice performance.
When questioned about the injury, even after the Flames had packed up their things for the long off-season, he declined to elaborate on what had happened.
“I don’t want to comment,” Jokinen said April 9. “I never comment on my status in the media, and I won’t do that today. The only thing I can say is everybody plays through injuries. Everybody is hurt.”
Maybe Friday’s announcement was to give Flames fans a reason as to why Jokinen wasn’t productive when it was needed most.
If the team is interested in bringing Jokinen back, this would be the first step in putting a positive spin on why they would want him.
He did suit up when hurt, which is something. He probably hurt the team more by playing, though.
Certainly it wouldn’t be the first time a Jokinen signing was shocking to those who follow this team.
After he was traded away midway through 2009-10 season, then-Flames GM Darryl Sutter brought Jokinen back July 1 with a two-year, US$3-million deal, which will expire this summer.
So when it comes to the Flames and Jokinen, nothing is really surprising anymore — even strange injury announcements.
On Twitter @SUNIanBusby