A year ago Thursday Jussi Markkanen landed back in Finland after having helped push the Oilers within one game of being Stanley Cup Champions and being touted as "a real Jussi success story" for having stepped up in place of the injured Dwayne Roloson. He was confident he'd get more playing time this season after proving himself - and so were we. In fact, during some of the more depressing bits of the Oilers season (see: most of it), the one thing that kept Elly and I going.
The Oilers, however, had other ideas in mind. They kept him over game one disaster Ty Conklin, but he only got sixteen starts this season, a fourth of which happened within the last few games of the season, when a loss was almost guaranteed. Then during draft weekend, Kevin Lowe admitted they'll be looking for a backup during the offseason.
Anyone who saw his end-season interview (I'd link, but I think the Oilers site has eaten all of these) and heard him state that he thought he could be a starter, but that he didn't think he'd be given a chance already had their hearts broken once. But we bounced back by hoping at least the Oilers would keep him. Instead, he'll join the ranks of UFA goaltenders and even says he might find himself back in Europe: "There's only 60 jobs so it's a little easier to count what teams might have openings," he said of the free-agent frenzy that gets underway on Sunday. "At the same time, there's going to be more goalies than jobs so some of us are going to end up out of the league."
Doesn't bode well for Jordi's jersey promise.
Think that's enough? Nope, optimistic but sad-sounding little Jussi has to make it worse.
I guess it just wouldn't be summer (or any trade season, for that matter) without the Oilers making me cry. Mark my words Edmonton, you resign Sykora or it's all over.
"When I left Edmonton (after the 2006-07 season), I felt like I would have an opportunity to come back. But I didn't even know at the time what I was going to do," said Markkanen, who earned $850,000 US last season.
"I really did enjoy my time there -- hockey-wise and lifestyle-wise -- and my family really liked it. Of course last year wasn't the best hockey-wise, but we had a lot of good years in Edmonton.
"It's always tough to leave thinking you're going to find something better when you know everything is already pretty good where you're at."