"Oddly, as the team continues to stack up skill on the back end, the experiment with Joni Pitkanen failed. I suggested to [assistant coach Charlie] Huddy that Pitkanen was the most talented blueliner to play for the Oilers since Paul Coffey; he didn't disagree. So, why didn't it work? "It was just a matter of being able to fit in with the gameplan," Huddy explains. "Sometimes guys have their own reads on how they should play and things like that. At some point you have to be able to follow a gameplan, and not that Joni didn't, but once he got out there it was kinda one direction."
Ultimately, as Huddy suggests, one of the Oilers' biggest beefs with Joni was that he just wasn't able to figure out when to give it the green light and when to tap the brakes. Huddy has a bit of an interesting take on that reality, putting forth the hypothesis that Pitkanen was simply trying too hard. "Credit to Joni, he wanted to win hockey games," Huddy emphasized. "A lot of times when you have the ability to skate like that and handle the puck and get up ice as quickly as he could, he always felt he could get something out of it."
That was posted a few weeks ago so sorry if I'm late to the party, but I just saw it for the first time. So, what to make of that? Canes fans got a glimpse of Paul Coffey in the late stages of his career and didn't get to fully appreciate him, but he was, uh, pretty good
, so that's obviously a favorable comparison.
"Trying too hard" is also not a bad problem to have - he's still a young player, having recently reached the magical age of 25 for defensemen that Jim Rutherford has spoken of only five days ago (happy belated birthday, Joni), so he's still learning a bit.
Huddy's comments also support what's been suggested earlier, that Pitkanen is good fit for the Canes' style of play, which is one of the most run-'n-gun styles you'll find around the league. I'm betting the Canes will give him that "green light" more often than the Oilers did. As Rutherford said recently, "We play a system that’s fun for the forwards and fun to watch, but as a goalie not fun to play." Sorry, Cam.
The Canes are well aware he's an offensive minded guy, which is why he'll be paired with the team's best defensive defenseman, Tim Gleason
, so start the year. They should complement each other well in that regard.
I don't know about you, but I'm really anxious to see what PItkanen can do in actual game situations, particularly for one situation - the power play. There haven't been any power play drills in practice yet, but I'm sure there will be tonight. Pitkanen and Gleason are both very likely to be in the lineup here at the RBC Center tonight - we'll see what they can do.