Now with Blues, Olli Jokinen ready to take it to Predators

This season, Olli Jokinen played 48 games with the Predators and six games with the Maple Leafs before being traded to the Blues. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

TORONTO -- No, one doesn't suspect there will be a video montage honoring Olli Jokinen's two-week sojourn with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

But isn't it indeed ironic that the 36-year-old center will be making his St. Louis Blues debut here in Toronto, where he parked himself temporarily after a trade from the Nashville Predators on Feb. 15?

The irony that Jokinen especially appreciates is that he's now on the team that's chasing his old Predators club in the Central Division standings.

"Yeah, absolutely. I really liked my time in Nashville. It was a good team and a great bunch of guys," Jokinen said Friday after practice at Air Canada Centre. "It felt like a punch in the stomach when I got traded because I wasn't really expecting that was going to happen, you know? Now, I'm on the team that, when I was in Nashville, this was the team that they were keeping an eye on, St. Louis and Chicago. Those were the key teams when I was in Nashville; when we played against them they were four-point games. Now, I'm on the other side of it. Yeah, I don't think Nashville would have made this trade [to St. Louis] a few weeks ago."

The Blues have themselves a motivated player in Jokinen, disappointed the Predators moved him and now licking his lips at the opportunity at hand with the Blues.

Leafs general manager Dave Nonis told Jokinen after the Feb. 15 trade with Nashville that he would try to find a spot for Jokinen on a contender.

"I really respect Dave," Jokinen said of the Leafs GM. "He was a man of his word. Obviously, you need two teams to make the trade, but they could've done anything: They [the Leafs] could've put me in the minors, they could've told me to stay home. 'We just ate your salary.' It was a very respectful move by Dave. He handled it very well."

Jokinen was hoping for, but not banking on, a trade.

"I'm a pretty smart guy -- it's not like my stats are that good and that there would be teams lining up to make a trade," said Jokinen, now on his 10th NHL team. "I was very excited that there was one team that needed that depth. It worked out well for me."

It was only two weeks but it was fascinating to hear Jokinen's take on the Leafs.

"I have to say, I've been in New York, I've been a lot of nice places, but nobody's got a setup like Toronto with the locker rooms and everything," Jokinen said. "It was amazing to see in two weeks. Everything's first class. It would be actually a great place to play."

Which is interesting to hear when you consider how his former Leafs teammates seem to think it's a burden to play here.

Asked specifically to point out what made the Leafs' "setup" so special, Jokinen dove into the details.

"Everything is top notch," Jokinen said. "You got cold tubs, hot tub saunas. It's not those metal ones. It’s the built-in ones. Big gyms. … All the staff, team service guys, all the trainers, they're unbelievable guys. It's not just the players; it's the staff around the team. I feel really bad for them -- it's a good group of people. Everybody says it's like the New York Yankees in baseball playing in Toronto. I liked the two weeks. I don't know why the free agents don't want to sign here. Maybe it's because of you guys."

He was referring to the media, of course, although Jokinen was chuckling when he said it.

"I didn't mind you guys. I didn't mind you because I don't really pay attention to what you guys are writing and saying," he said. "The guys have tendencies when things go well, they like to go read stuff about themselves. They get in this cycle that they have to read about themselves all the time. But one [piece of] advice for the players that play in a Canadian market, or any market: At the end of the day, all that matters is what the coaches say, management says and your teammates. That's it. And your wife. I think that's all you need to do. I think here with the players, they pay too much attention what the people outside say because, at the end of the day, it shouldn't matter.

"You guys know better than any of us how it goes here. One game you score two [goals], you're a hero. Next game you're minus-2 -- things are not that good. I don't know, maybe I'm crazy enough. I kind of liked that style because you as a player, you want to be in a place that hockey matters, and at the same time, you want to be part of the good teams, too. Hopefully, they can fix things here because I think the city of Toronto deserves to have a good team, a winning team. It would be unbelievable for the league and for the sport."

Well, I pointed out to Jokinen as his media scrum wrapped out that he is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, you know.

"Yeah, I am," he smirked.