Jets did right with Jokinen: Sutter

Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter and players Olli Jokinen (left) and Jarome Iginla watch the...

Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter and players Olli Jokinen (left) and Jarome Iginla watch the scoreboard in March 2012. (BEN NEIMS/REUTERS}

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The man who helped Olli Jokinen resurrect his hockey career believes the Winnipeg Jets made a wise decision bringing him into the fold.

Brent Sutter, the former head coach of the Calgary Flames, was singing the praises of Jokinen when we caught up to him at his ranch in Sylvan Lake, Alta.

“Number one, he’s a great guy,” said Sutter. “Olli Jokinen is a very good hockey player. I like him a lot. He trains hard, he’s a fit guy who takes care of himself and he’s a tremendous team guy.

“Like all players, they want to score goals and get points but the thing with Olli, he got to learn and understand how important it was to defend and play without the puck. He’s a real good example of a player who, as he got up in age, he understood the importance of changing his game. To get a guy like Olli, it’s a great move by the Jets.” Sutter was a few months into his second season as Flames bench boss when the two had a frank discussion about Jokinen needing to transform his style.

“He really flourished. The last two years, his game went to a whole new level, as far as the type of player he was. With doing it, he was still able to contribute and put up offensive numbers.”

The commitment to the defensive zone led to increased production, bucking the trend for a player in his 30s.

“You look at players, the majority of them, will decrease and not increase, so you have to adapt and do things differently,” said Sutter. “It’s a young man’s game, but players in their 30s can still be great contributors by making some adjustments.”

Those adjustments allowed Jokinen to bounce back with 23 goals and 61 points last season, helping him earn a two-year deal with the Jets worth $9 million.

“This past season, there’s no doubt Olli, from start to finish, was our top forward,” said Sutter.

The Jokinen Sutter knows is determined to win, despite the fact he’s appeared in only six playoff games.

“No question, he’s a team-oriented guy that really wants to win bad,” said Sutter. “He took a lot of pride in wanting to do things right and playing that team game.

“Olli has become a complete player that every team needs on their hockey team to have success. Teams that have big centre-icemen always seem to find a way to win. He’s a big body that can skate and he’s learned how to play the game the right way. He just needs to stay with it.” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is counting on it.



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