The captain is restless.
Barely seven weeks since his season ended and more than three months until training camp, Panther captain Olli Jokinen is already focusing on the 2007-08 season.
“We took huge strides last season,” Jokinen said. “We can build something good. Everything is here and ready.”
And Jokinen is doing his part. He underwent surgery on his left wrist a week after the season in hopes of being ready for training camp, and he’s decorated his right arm with a tattoo of his new guardian angel.
“She’s the goddess of victory,” he said while glancing at the intricate artwork on his arm.
After leading the Panthers for the second consecutive season in goals (39), assists (52) and points (91), Jokinen underwent surgery to correct a problem that’s been bothering him for two seasons.
“I had surgery in this wrist two years ago, the lockout year,” Jokinen said. “And, you know, it never really healed. It was kind of bothering me for two years. Finally, I got an MRI and they looked at the pictures and they told me if I don’t do the surgery I might not be able to hold the hockey stick in a couple years.
“There weren’t any other options but surgery.”
Jokinen said he’ll have pins removed from his wrist the end of May. “They’ll be six more weeks with a cast on and after that we can start to do treatment,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll start using the wrist in August and I should be ready for training camp.”
For Jokinen, it’s all about next season. As he enters his seventh season with the Panthers, Jokinen has matured into the team captain and leading scorer while demonstrating incredible durability.
In his six seasons in South Florida, Jokinen has only missed seven games. Last year he didn’t miss a game despite wrist and hip injuries.
“I don’t want to say I’ve been healthy but I’ve been able to avoid the surgeries,” he said. “I’m pretty banged up every year, but with proper treatment I’ve been able to go on. I think every player goes through the same thing. You don’t want injuries to be a distraction and you don’t want to make a big deal out of them.
“If you’re able to play, you keep your mouth shut and suck it up.”
While Jokinen is pleased with his team’s improvement over the past two years – he’s bullish on younger players like Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss
– he badly wants this team to not only qualify for the playoffs, but make an extended run.
“As captain I take responsibility the last two years for not making the playoffs,” he said. “My goal is to do everything possible to help my teammates and do the little things to make the playoffs. That is my only goal. It’s nice to score goals, get points and see everyone have career years. But I think we’d all trade the points for a place in the playoffs.”
And Jokinen is confident that can happen come 2007-08.
“We have everything here,” he said. “The ownership group has been doing a tremendous job over here. The coaches and owners have been giving us all the tools, investing money, money, money. The fans keep showing up. It’s a first-class franchise. It’s a nice setup here for our wives and families. It’s a nice place to play hockey.
“We just got to do our part.”DON'T MISS OUT
Panther captain Olli Jokinen won’t be holding anything back May 24 at 7 p.m., when he discusses the past season, wrist surgery, and the promise of the future during the first live chat on floridapanthers.com.
Remember to stay tuned to FloridaPanthers.com for exclusive stories, videos and upcoming chats with your favorite Panther players and coaches.