Hey, I'll be the first to admit that Joni Pitkänen has come a long way with his English since moving to North America in 2003, apparently with much translation help from Philadelphia Flyers teammate Sami Kapenen. Nevertheless, in interviews he suffers from the same problem that fellow Finn Jari Kurri once had — that is, rather than sounding like a professional hockey player of great skill that can improve our favourite hockey team, the listener instinctively cringes at what sounds like a one-sided conversation with an extremely bored, possibly sleepy, and almost certainly retarded lobotomy recipient with a Scandinavian accent.
To be fair, just looking at written Finnish, with its runaway compound words and liberal use of consecutive umlauts, I'm sure I'd lose about 100 IQ points everytime I opened my mouth in Helsinki. What we learned from Radek Dvorak, of course, is that a man is always more candid speaking in his native tongue, especially when his employer can't understand him (as is the case with Cantonese-speaking ladies on my streetcar, who I swear are making fun of me).
With this in mind, I sniffed around the interweb for any native-language interviews with our enigmatic new acquisition, Joni "minus 25" Pitkänen. In Philly he had a reputation for being withdrawn from other players on the team, so I was looking for clues as to whether he was actually a headcase or merely just sounded like one when speaking to english media.
Unfortunately, free Finnish to English translation sites are few and far between, as well as generally shitty, so I can't put much faith into the translation given. Nevertheless, when asked about playing with the Flyers (I think), Joni had this to say (sort of):
"Beforehand famous rhetoric , that Flyers oli me absorbed. Report travel nevertheless thus considerably, lest them everywhere health tietenkään dangerously takeaway. Veto - morning bulb ago , that Philadelphia oli turnover Fedotenkon. Then diagram liquor selkiytymään , Prolonged speak."
Hm. "Then diagram liquor selkiytymään," might be something, but otherwise we're just going to have to keep an eye on the guy, lest his "Beforehand famous rhetoric" gets carried away. The guy could be bonkers.
In the meantime, picking up a defenceman 22nd in overall D scoring in an off year is basically always a good thing, especially since by the end of the 2007 Sean Hill was looking like a tantalizng offensive pickup.
Indeed, Pitkänen has had his share of cockups in front of his own net and most people will point first to his dreadful plus/minus last year. Yet, a more detailed analysis over at Behind the Net reveals that when Pitkänen was on the ice he accounted for a net +.041 goal differential over 60 minutes for his club last season (nevermind that, at a glance, he was also an impressive +22 in 2005-06 over 58 games). His even strength numbers are indeed gaudy with a 2.74/3.70 GF/GA split for a net -0.96, but not much worse than Jason Smith's -0.82. Smith, of course, played against tougher opponents, but the overall point is that Pitkänen doesn't worry me nearly as much as Sheldon Souray does at even strength, and even at that, he has more upside at 23 than either Smith (a UFA after next season) or Souray.
I think it also says a lot that only the dumbest mouthbreathers on Flyers webboards were happy to see Pitkänen traded, even with a highly serviceable Jason Smith going back in return. Best of all, the Oilers shed themselves of the biggest hex coming out of the Pronger deal, Joffrey Lupul. Watch out, Philly ladies!