Sports

To trade or not to trade

Sportspinion: Are the Flames better off without Jokinen?

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People were shocked to see Olli Jokinen back in the Flames lineup after his disappointing 2009/2010 season with the team. Well, when you look at general manager Darryl Sutter, who has faced his share of criticism, it was almost expected of him to bring back a guy that was a failed "project" the first time around.

Sutter has made some good moves in his tenure with the Flames, like signing Jay Bouwmeester to a long-term deal and dealing Ian White and his own son, Brett Sutter, to the Carolina Hurricanes for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos. These decisions ultimately benefited the team. Bringing back the less-than-stellar Jokinen was a questionable move and whether he'll remain with the Flames in the future is up for debate.

Last week, Jokinen was suspended for three games for a vicious and stupid crosscheck to the face of Wojtek Wolski. During those three games, the Flames' struggling captain Jarome Iginla scored six goals and one assist. Is this just coincidence, or is it because the Flames are better off without Jokinen? Iginla has consistently had mid-late November hot streaks for almost his entire career. Every year he struggles to get out of the gate and then kicks it up 10 notches in November. This year, Iginla struggled far more than ever before to start the season and now he has had one of the best Novembers of his career. Surely, this has to relate to Jokinen's not being in the lineup.

The trade with Carolina brought back two roster players, and only sent one the other way. To many "experts" that is only a sign that more trades are coming. It seems like perfect timing too, seeing as Jokinen was suspended and Iggy lit the lamp without him in the lineup. Clearly, the role assigned to Jokinen is better filled by Matt Stajan or Mikael Backlund, all the more reason for Sutter to look for a team to ship him off to. The problem is that no team really wants the depreciating asset, making it difficult for him to be moved.

The question that has to be answered now is do the Flames really need Olli Jokinen? If the answer is no, then the Flames must ship him out of town even if it's for a fifth round draft pick. It's better than letting him get claimed off waivers for nothing. If Sutter decides that yes, the Flames do need to keep him, then they need to find a role that he fits in to, and fast. Possibly good things could happen with him on a line centering Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque? Or how about an energy line role, a third liner with Curtis Glencross and David Moss? There are many possibilities for Jokinen, both within the Flames organization and on a different team. The important thing is that a decision is made soon.

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