Jussi Jokinen's 30 goal season back in 2009-10 was both a blessing and a curse. It was great to see him set career highs in goals and points but to many people, every season after that will be seen as a disappointment. The truth is that Jokinen had a once-and-a-lifetime season that year and he probably isn't going to shoot at 18.8% ever again, which probably means that he won't ever repeat that 30 goal/65 point season. However, to say that both seasons Jokinen had since then are disappointments would be silly.
I will admit that I was expecting more than 12 goals from him this season, but Jokinen has consistently been one of the Hurricanes' better forwards ever since he arrived and he was one of their best last season. Next to Jeff Skinner, Jokinen was the team's best even strength forward at creating and preventing scoring chances and he was also one of their better powerplay performers and penatly killers. His ability to win faceoffs at an above average rate earned him the second line center role to start the season and he seemed to blossom in that his line with Jeff Skinner & Tuomo Ruutu was, once again, one of Carolina's best forward units.
Jokinen's point production at even strength was a little underwhelming but a 46 point season is nothing to sneeze at for someone playing in the top-six, in my opinion. Jokinen had a solid season and I think his goal total will rebound next year, especially if he can create chances at the rate he did this season. After the jump, we will take a look at Jokinen's underlying numbers and how he performed compared to the rest of the team.
Jussi Jokinen 2011-12 Season
Average TOI: 17:40
Even Strength Chance% Forward Rank: 5/18
Even Strength Chance Diff/60 Forward Rank: 5/18
QualComp Forward Rank: 10/12
OZ Start%: 53.1%
Remember when I talked about how Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen & Patrick Dwyer played tough minutes? Jokinen was the opposite of that. He was frequently used in the offensive zone against noticeably weaker competition, so he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt from me with his numbers. Fortunately for Jokinen, he made the most of those minutes.
Scoring Chances by Season Segment
TC = total chances, SC = segment chances, Segment% = scoring chance percentage during segment, Team %= Hurricanes' scoring chance percentage during segment
Scoring Chance Segment by Line Graph
Click to enlarge graph
I think Jokinen came back too soon from his knee injury because his play was on a completely different level before that happened. He only missed three games but the injury looked a lot worse than it actually was and it took awhile for him to rebound after it happened. He performed above the team average in all but three segments and the most notable are segments two and three, which were around the time that he got hurt.
Aside from that period, Jokinen was fantastic at controlling scoring chances at even strength this year. Over half the team struggled in this category but Jokinen was able to keep the puck in the opponent's end more often than not when he was on the ice. This is why I think his goal and point total will stay in the 45-55 range for at least another year. He gets top-six minutes, plays on the powerplay and should continue to play with good linemates which should equate to another good season if he can keep it up.
Although, his goal total probably won't take a huge leap forward because he didn't shoot the puck nearly as often as he did the last two seasons. My guess is that this is a product of him playing center for most of the year instead of on the wing. He shot at around 10.2%, which is pretty low compared to his career average of 13.2%, but even if we adjust his shooting percentage to that, he would still have 15-16 goals. Like I said earlier, it isn't fair to expect 30 goals from Jokinen because that season was clearly an aberration and he is much more of a play-maker than he is a goal-scorer. Even when he was in Dallas, most of his points came from assists and he didn't shoot the puck as often as someone playing on the wing would.
In short, Jokinen got the job done as the team's second line center this season even though his boxcar stats aren't going to wow anyone. He was still better at controlling scoring chances than most of the team by a pretty big margin, so it is fair to say that he had a good season and was one of the team's best forwards.
The "Skins and Finns" line is very popular among Carolina fans and for good reason. They were able to control scoring chances at an extremely high rate whenever they were on the ice. Jokinen & Skinner simply killed it in terms of possession whenever they played together and Jokinen also showed great chemistry with both Tuomo Ruutu, Chad LaRose and Eric Staal. Jokinen pretty much controlled possession whenever he played with anyone in the top-six, but was he the one driving the bus on those lines?
We can figure this out by looking at the other columns in the chart and you can see that Jokinen struggled A LOT when he was not playing with Jeff Skinner. Skinner's play also suffered a big drop-off when he wasn't with Jokinen but he was at least close to the 50% mark at even strength while Jokinen was underwater. However, Jokinen seemed to be fine when he was not playing on a line with Ruutu, but the latter's play suffered when he was away from his fellow countryman.
What this shows is that Skinner was the driving force behind that line but Jokinen helped it a lot, as well. Jokinen's numbers dropped to near-replacement level when he is playing without Skinner but he managed to stay above 50% otherwise. Jokinen is a very good player and can work well with just about any linemate in the top-six, but Skinner clearly elevates his play a lot.
I have dabbled with the idea of putting Staal on a line with Jokinen & Skinner for awhile now and while this looks like a great line on paper, I am not sure if it is feasible. It seems unlikely that Kirk Muller will put all three of the team's top-scorers on the same line for depth purposes and you also have to remember that we would have three natural centers playing on the same line which might not work out. It is hard to not at least think of the idea when you look at Jokinen's numbers with Staal, though.
As for the defensemen, Jokinen's numbers received a huge boost when he was playing with Jamie McBain & Jaroslav Spacek while he struggled with Tim Gleason & Bryan Allen. Offensive zone starts for the win.