New Coyotes center Olli Jokinen recently visited the Valley looking to find a house and to check out the way of life in the Arizona desert.
After seven productive seasons but zero NHL playoff berths with the Florida Panthers, Jokinen, whom the Coyotes acquired in a draft-day trade, is fully embracing the move to a new city and a new club that is hungry to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.
“I was relieved and excited (about the trade),” Jokinen told phoenixcoyotes.com. “There had been many rumors surrounding my name and a potential trade for many months, so it was great to finally have it done and I am very excited. I welcome the change of scenery. I have been playing with a lot of young teammates over the years in Florida. The Coyotes' young players are very talented and have bright futures, and I think the team has really good balance between veteran and young players. Over the course of my amateur and pro careers, I have been relied upon to be a leader and to put points on the board. I welcome the challenge.”
Coyotes fans are expecting plenty from Jokinen, who left the Panthers as the franchise leader in goals (188), assists (231) and points (419). Nearly half of the respondents to a poll question listed on phoenixcoyotes.com predict he will lead the Coyotes in goals in 2008-09.
“I have had a very short summer,” Jokinen said. “I have been working very hard and feel I am in the best shape of my career. I am excited for this change and want to deliver for my teammates, coaches, management and especially the Coyotes fans.”
Jokinen captained the Panthers for several years, but he won’t be needed in that role with Phoenix because that job belongs to Shane Doan
. While that could be a tricky transition for some players, Jokinen isn’t worried about not wearing a “C” on his new sweater.
“It will be fine,” Jokinen said. “I know how much Shane is admired by his teammates in Phoenix and during his appearances for Team Canada. Shane gives 110 percent all the time and his energy and hard work will motivate me as well.”
Jokinen said he also admires his new head coach and predicts playing for Wayne Gretzky, whom he has yet to meet, will be surreal at first.
“It hasn't really sunk in yet but I think it will be great,” Jokinen said. “I have heard that Coach Gretzky is a players' coach. His career as a player was absolutely amazing and I hope I can play a part in people appreciating his teaching and tactical skills as a head coach.”
Jokinen enters the 2008-09 season having played 723 regular-season games for Los Angeles, the New York Islanders and Florida, but he has yet to play one game beyond the regular season. That lopsided ledger motivates him.
"It is my number one goal right now to participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and go on from there," Jokinen said. "It was disappointing to get close a few times in Florida and just miss. (But) this game is bigger than just one player, and we need 23 guys all focused on the same goal."