Best Florida Panthers Player - 2003
The Panthers suck. Center Olli Jokinen knows this, and the fact that he isn't afraid to say it should give fans some hope for the future. The team may have a real leader. In March, as the cats wound down a disappointing, losing season and missed the playoffs, Jokinen showed true leadership by doing the simplest thing. He spoke the truth. "We can't win if we don't have guys showing up every night," he said. "... At least when you put the jersey on, you have to pay the price and play hard. It's frustrating that we have five or six guys showing up to a game... We have people hiding in the corners." Then Jokinen, who scored more in the dismal season than any Panther in history not named Pavel, came down with the hammer: "Things will change, though, you know? We're playing for jobs. There's 25 guys in the minors who want to play in the NHL. Every single guy has to realize that." After reading those words, we know there is a fire burning somewhere in this team -- even if it's only in Jokinen's heart.