(HockeySTL) -- Not too long ago, just the mere suggestion that Olli Jokinen wouldn't be an everyday player would have been scoffed at. Now, that is precisely the situation Jokinen is in and he couldn't be any more content with it.
Jokinen, a veteran of 17 NHL seasons, joined the Blues via trade over a week ago. Coming from the bottom-feeding Maple Leafs to the contending Blues, Jokinen described the situation as “winning the lottery.” When he was contacted with the news, he couldn't believe his ears.
“I got the call and they said St. Louis and I almost dropped the phone,” said Jokinen. “This is a team that has a chance.”
The Blues are the 10th team the 36-year-old forward has been a part of, his third this season. He spent the first part of the year with Nashville before being traded to Toronto and then ultimately to St. Louis.
“It was pretty tough to leave one of the top teams in Nashville to go to Toronto,” Jokinen admitted. “I signed there and the plan was to stay there. It was a huge punch in the stomach when I got traded. When I got there they told me they would do everything possible to trade me to a playoff team.”
The Maple Leafs have seen better days and Jokinen was forced to ride the never-ending roller coaster in the league's biggest hockey market. The situation took a toll on Jokinen, the forward admitted.
“I was one of those guys with Calgary where I had to answer to the media every day,” Jokinen said. “Those guys in Toronto are good guys. They care and it's a tough year for them; a tough situation. I feel really bad for them for what they have to go through. It's a really tough place for the players to play.
“I liked it over there. It was two weeks, so a short time, but everything is first class. It's a great city to play in.”
But now that he's in St. Louis, Jokinen hopes to be able to relax and contribute in any way he can.
With three goals, seven points in 55 games this season, Jokinen's days of top-tier production appear to have passed. But the Blues feel he still has value that they can utilize, hence the reason general manager Doug Armstrong traded for the veteran at the deadline.
“I like him,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “As a person, I have spent time with him in mess halls all over the world in the Olympics and stuff like that. They always seem to be the team sitting next to us so I have ran into him a lot. I think he is a really classy guy.
“He's learned to adjust. He came into the league as a penalty killer, power play, all-minute guy. Now he has learned to find a role. He is smart. He spent most of the season in Nashville where they practice and play at a high temp so he knows exactly what that's like.”
Jokinen has already graced the Blues' lineup, partaking in the team's 6-1 victory over Toronto on Saturday. He may get another opportunity Thursday against Philadelphia. And the inconsistency of playing time will be something Jokinen will have to adapt to with the Blues this season. But it's something he doesn't mind.
“I think I can be a depth guy,” said Jokinen. “I understand my situation here, my role. I understand that there are going to be some nights where I'm not in the lineup. I think I can play up and down the lineup. When I get a chance to play, I'm no different than any other guy. I just want to play.”
On Jokinen's resume sit 747 career points, 320 of them being goals, as well as 1,224 games played. Yet, Jokinen has only appeared in six playoff games in his career. When he approached Toronto general manager Dave Nonis letting it be known that he would appreciated a trade to a contender, he did so wanting to embrace the experience of playoff hockey. The Blues were one of the teams he knew he could enjoy the experience with.
“I think when I got traded to Calgary, the team was the same,” said Jokinen. “The team was in a playoff position. At the same time, I'm not getting any younger. Every year that goes by your chances are getting slimmer. It's a great situation to be in.”
The Blues are currently competing with Jokinen's former team, the Predators, and the Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division. One of Jokinen's first thoughts upon hearing of his new destination last Monday was that the Blues are a team that has been knocking on the door for a while.
“If you look at the past five, six years, they are always in the postseason and always making a push,” said Jokinen. “There are a lot of good players here.”
The Blues thought Jokinen fit into their group extraordinarily well, especially if he can step into various situations.
“The two games he played against us in Nashville he was hard to play against,” said Hitchcock. “If he brings that type of effort here, he's going to really help us.”
No matter if he is a spectator or an on-ice contributor, Jokinen is happy in his new situation. It's been a crazy season for Jokinen, but arriving in St. Louis may be the perfect ending for Jokinen.
“It's just great to be here, to be honest,” he said while grinning.