Olli Jokinen’s a difficult player to get a read on. The fact that he’s 6’3”, doesn’t mind the rough stuff, and has topped the 25-goal mark for six consecutive seasons are all in his favour. Working against that is the fact that he’s having an atrocious year in Calgary, has bounced around the league a bit (and attracted the usual ‘problem in the room’ rumours) is an indifferent player in his own end, and that he’s failed to replicate his gaudy offensive totals from his time in Florida.

I’m going to tackle the last issue first. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that the Southeast division inflates player statistics, and when I looked into it last month I found that the best players in the division all saw their offence drop off substantially outside of it.  Of course, there’s also my post this morning, showing that on average, last year Southeast Division players managed about 14.0% less offence when playing outside of their own division.

Jokinen is no exception; while he’s twice been in the 90-point range since the lockout, he’s actually never eclipsed a point-per-game pace if you ignore his in-division scoring numbers. I’ve done that here; the first three seasons are his out-of-division numbers only, while the last two seasons I haven’t messed with except to project them over 82 games played.

Season GP G A PTS +/-
2005-06 82 31 49 79 2
2006-07 82 38 44 82 20
2007-08 82 36 30 66 -20
2008-09 82 31 30 61 -13
2009-10 82 16 36 52 4

Looking at that chart, we see that Jokinen’s been an incredibly consistent goal-scorer, and that his assist totals have fluctuated slightly from year-to-year. This season, his assists are in the range, but his goal-scoring is roughly half of what it has been in previous seasons.

When I see a sharp fluctuation in goal-scoring, my immediate suspicion is that the player is taking the same number of shots, but that his shooting percentage (always a fickle creature) has dropped off. Here are Jokinen’s shots-per-game numbers and shooting percentage since the NHL lockout (note: I was unable to adjust for division here, which is why the numbers are slightly different than in the table above):

Season Shots/Game SH%
2005-06 4.28 10.8
2006-07 4.28 11.1
2007-08 4.16 10.0
2008-09 3.11 12.3
2009-10 2.89 6.9

We see a sharp decrease after Jokinen left the Southeast Division, but he’s still averaging in the neighborhood of three shots per game. The sharp decrease is his shooting percentage, which has dropped from better than 10.0% to less than 7.0%. To put that drop in perspective, if Jokinen were averaging the same shooting percentage that he had last season, he’d already have 20 goals.

Any number of factors could be impacting Jokinen’s shooting percentage, but it’s unlikely to be a permanent decline; many players see their shooting percentage dip or spike for unknown reasons, but in the vast majority of cases they return to their career levels. For that reason, I’d say that Jokinen is a very good bet to return to the 25-30 goal range wherever he plays next season.

As for other issues with Jokinen’s on-ice play, the fact is that as a rule he moves the puck in the right direction. We have Corsi numbers going back to 2007-08, and in those 2-1/2 seasons Jokinen has outpaced his team each and every year, despite the fact that he’s played against tough opposition and started quite a bit in his own end. In 2007-08, where he put up that ugly plus/minus, he was victimized by a very low on-ice save percentage, and given how percentages vary from year to year I wouldn’t read too much into that.

Jokinen may be a problem in the room, but based solely on his on-ice performance he looks a lot to me like a good player just having a bad year. I think the Rangers got him for a lot less than his full value, and assuming he doesn’t suddenly break out another team might be able to pick him up at a discount this summer when he hits free agency.