Feature Friday: #25 Joni Pitkanen

Joni Pitkanen. Courtesy: NHL.com


Going into the off-season, many thought that the 6’3”, 210lb Oulu, Finland native was going to test the waters of free agency and, most likely, wouldn’t be around for the Hurricanes for the 2011-2012 season. To the surprise of many, however, Joni Pitkanen signed a 3-year deal, which would pay him $4.5 million per year. It was widely believed that if Pitkanen tested the market after July 1st, some team would pay him more than the Hurricanes would be able to. We will see if that was money well spent by Jim Rutherford and the Hurricanes this coming year. While he has displayed tremendous upside at times (we’ll get back to this shortly), most Caniacs get frustrated seeing an elite player seemingly not playing up to his full potential. The benefits of having a player like Pitkanen is that he is an elite puck-moving defenseman that can be a point on a team’s power play and can also visualize plays extremely well. He is also a minutes hog, usually averaging close to 25 minutes per game, by far the highest on the team. The downside that some fans have seen is he drifts (plays in “Joniland”), takes bad penalties, is not sound defensively and doesn’t shoot the puck as often as many believe he should. Here’s exhibit A (including a few Tracyisms) from a game against the New York Islanders as to what happens when fans say: “Shoot the puck, Joni!”


Or take exhibit B (including a semi-Tracyism) with a b-e-a-utiful goal against the Atlanta Thrashers (Hey! Look what I found!):


Last season, during the final year of his previous contract, Pitkanen played 72 games while producing 35 points (5G, 30A) with 60PIM and a -2 rating. Hurricanes fans hope that he can improve those point totals and produce like he did during the 2009-2010 season, where he had 46 points (6A, 40A), his most as a Hurricane. One of the biggest moments during his stint as a Hurricane so far, however, came in the 2008-2009 playoffs where he set up Jussi Jokinen to tie the game in the 3rd period during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New Jersey Devils. Below are the highlights from the final 2 minutes. You’re welcome, Caniacs.


The big question going into this year is which Joni will show up? Caniacs have seen both the good and the not-so-good sides of him throughout his tenure in Carolina, and hope that he can emerge as a complete, always-on, elite puck-moving defenseman in the league. What type of season do you think Joni will have? Let us know your thoughts in comments!


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Tags: Atlanta Thrashers Jim Rutherford Joni Pitkanen New Jersey Devils New York Islanders

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