On a day where Hurricanes Joni Pitkanen
and Tuomo Ruutu
were both selected to play in the Olympics, it’s unfortunate that most of the attention will be turned to countryman Jussi Jokinen
’s surprising snub from Team Finland.
Not to steal any thunder from the two very-deserving players that will represent Carolina at the 2010 winter games, but they were widely expected to make the team. Therein lies the problem – so was Jokinen.
The omission is an eyebrow-raiser for several reasons. First, he’s such a versatile player that it’s difficult to imagine how he would have trouble fitting in to any setup at any forward position. If he were strictly a center and the Finns felt they had four who were better, that would be one thing. But do they have 13 forwards who are more deserving of a spot? That is questionable with the inclusion of two players in Ville Peltonen and Jarko Immonen who are not currently playing in the NHL, although they have in the past. When also considering that Jokinen can play on both areas of special teams, the whole thing is a little baffling.
Second, each and every game in the Olympic competition is subject to a shootout, following an overtime period of five, 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the stage of the tournament (somewhat complicated tournament rules can be found here). Whether it’s picking up points in the preliminary round or facing elimination in the playoffs, can Finland really afford to leave arguably the best shootout man in the world at home? The team’s organizers will certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.
Finland has also undoubtedly irked two of its core players in Ruutu and Pitkanen, who surely thought their Carolina teammate would be accompanying them to Vancouver. That may not be much of a factor once the puck drops, but it’s at least worth noting.
So, how could it happen? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, and guesses will be rampant due to the sometimes political nature of the selection process for national teams. Perhaps Jokinen will have some insight on that at today’s practice – we’ll have updates on that, on the two selected Finns and hopefully some good news about Eric Staal’s participation on Team Canada around noon.