Flames' reasons for signing Olli Jokinen do and don't make sense

ollijokinen3.jpgThe Flames foray into free agency this year is one that has mostly driven Flames fans insane. The signing of Olli Jokinen has been the focus of most of the attention of fans not only in Calgary but also around the league. The two sides parted ways on such poor terms before thanks to Jokinen being thoroughly unproductive (75 GP, 19 G, 31 A over two seasons) and with the Flames losing a first round pick to the Coyotes in the process when they traded him away.

So what would motivate Darryl Sutter to invoke public outcry and sign back the one time Flames pariah for failure? It turns out, it’s got a bit more to do with the health of Daymond Langkow according to the Calgary Herald.

Centre Daymond Langkow is struggling to recover from a season-ending neck injury suffered in the spring. His status for next season is unknown.

“It’s still an issue,” said the Calgary Flames general manager. “We’re 100 days post-injury. We thought he would be further along that he is, and he’s still not.

“We’re still 100 days away (from the start of the season), but it is a concern.”

Back on March 21, medics wheeled Langkow off the ice in Minnesota via stretcher after taking an Ian White slap shot off the base of the neck. From the impact of the blast, Langkow suffered what Sutter calls a “slight” fracture of the vertebrae at the base of the neck.

“To be quite honest, it ties big into Olli too.”

This year’s free agency class at center wasn’t exactly teeming over with stellar talent and another center the Flames could’ve been looking at was yet another former Flame in Matthew Lombardi (he signed with Nashville yesterday). The Flames, however, made their move first and it was to Jokinen. What is Sutter’s justification on Jokinen? It’s interesting to say the least.

“We felt in discussing it with the players — Jarome and Olli and Alex — that’s what they felt they missed was a playmaker with them,” Sutter said. “Certainly Tanguay is capable of that.”

As for the reaction to the Jokinen signing?

“Actually, it’s been really, really positive,” Sutter said.

From whom?

“From the people who are important.”

The season-ticket holders?

“Including them,” Sutter said. “Especially them.”

Signs you know you’ve made a questionable signing: When you’re instantly defensive when being asked questions as to why you made it in the first place. That said, ending up on Darryl Sutter’s bad side can’t be all that difficult as he always looks to be so pleasant.

Making Alex Tanguay the linchpin that will supposedly make the the line with Jokinen and Iginla work is an intriguing call on its own. Tanguay’s 09-10 season in Tampa was less than stellar (80 GP, 10 G, 27 A) while playing alongside Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. Banking on Tanguay to be the missing link to provide success for both Jokinen and Iginla is almost the definition of “putting all your eggs in one basket.” Whether Tanguay can be the setup man or not may determine whether or not Darryl Sutter gets to keep his job in the front office.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”