Saturday, October 04, 2014

Can Joensuu take advantage of his opportunity?


The Edmonton Oilers improved to 4-2 on the pre-season with a 3-2 victory over Devan Dubnyk and the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night at Rexall Place. For an exhibition game against a divisional rival that had almost none of their key regulars in the starting lineup, Dallas Eakins crew looked fairly solid…this despite another dreadful performance from both power play units. 

Jesse Joensuu continues to look rather impress in meaningless games for the second consecutive year, scoring a pair of goals and teaming up with linemate Steve Pinizzotto to lead the way upfront for the Orange and Blue. Both guys are fighting for one of the handful of open spots on this roster and one would have to think they have shown well enough to perhaps have the inside track of accomplishing exactly that. 

While Pinizzotto is what he is as a player, a fourth line energy guy, there are still those who are holding out hope that Mr. Joensuu could turn out to be some sort of “diamond in the rough” but who is kidding who here. The twenty-six year old has proven to be a tad much for fringe NHLers and/or AHL guys to handle but when it comes to playing on a nightly basis in the best league in the world, the big Finn has shown to be incapable of being anything more than a passenger on a nightly basis. 

At 6’ 4” and 215 pounds with the ability to chip in with some offence from time to time, Joensuu has all the necessary tools to be a useful bottom six forward but we have rarely if ever seen that side of the former New York Islanders second round pick. With that being the case, would having him start the 2014-15 year on a line with Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks even be something this coaching staff seriously considers? 

On a team that still lacks any sort of real size, especially among the forward ranks, turning to a guy with a soft set of hands would appear to be an absolute no-brainer and yet nothing could be further from the truth. Playing on a fourth line with the likes of Gordon and Hendricks should not be overly taxing for a guy with Joensuu’s skill-set but for some reason it has been. 

As good as the man who was selected sixtieth overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft looked during last year’s season opener against the Winnipeg Jets, it was arguably the one and only occasion in which he was a true difference maker during the entire 2013-14 campaign. In his defence, Joensuu battled a wonky back and a variety of other ailments but for him to have played forty-two games and scored all of five points, while being a complete no-factor in probably thirty-nine of those games, is frankly staggering. 

And yet here we are again. 

The 2014-15 National Hockey League season is roughly a week away from getting started and Joensuu has once again been one of the best players at training camp. In a perfect world, the Edmonton Oilers would love for the native of Pori, Finland to claim a regular a spot, become a reliable contributor at even strength and perhaps chip in from time to time on the club’s second unit power play but history suggests there is little to no chance of that taking place. 

The opportunity is there for the taking and it is up to Jesse Joensuu to decide how this will ultimately play out. He either makes the necessary adjustments to become a player this coaching staff can use or he can continue down the same path he has been on since entering the league.

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