Jori Lehtera hasn’t won the Powerball yet, but he’s achieved the honor in the NHL. He plays along side Vladimir Tarasenko, revered goal scorer and Russian superstar who doesn’t need a beard to be cool. One would think that playing on a line with a superstar would boost someone’s numbers. Lehtera is the exception. To quote Art Lippo, Jori is benefiting from the wonderful Tarasenko scholarship.
He’s a 28 year old player who skates like a 42 year old has-been. When he came into the league in 2014, Lehtera started off hotter than a Swedish meat pie. The man garnered 25 points in 37 game in the appetizer round of the 2014-15 season. From January 1st, 2015 to today, Lehtera has produced 60 points in 136 games. He’s accomplished this stat line while playing with Tarasenko, a player that teams have to throw two guys on to stop upon passage into the offensive zone.
Wait a minute, the Lehtera faithful say. He can win face-off’s. Like hell he can. Perhaps he did this in the KHL before he came overseas. In his three years of NHL time, Lehtera’s face-off win percentages read like such:
2014-15: 51.2 percent
2015-16: 50.1 percent
2016-17: 53.6 percent
The 2015-16 total finished behind David Backes and Paul Stastny. Lehtera barely wins half of his face-offs. The leader in the NHL, Antoine Vermette of Anaheim, collected 66 percent of his dot battles. That’s pretty good. 52 percent isn’t bad or anything to write home to mom about. Please, cut this out.
Lehtera doesn’t deserve to play with Tarasenko. He should play with aspiring young players like Dmitrj Jaskin(owner of ZERO goals in 21 games this year) and Ty Rattie or the ghost of Nail Yakupov. It isn’t like he can make those young cats better. It’s just that’s where he belongs. You can’t bench 4.7 million dollars in the press box, so Lehtera has to play somewhere.
If you want to score more goals, make better lines. Now that the Blues have temporarily turned off their illogical penalty drawing vibe, Tarasenko is getting more time ice. The past two games he’s played 20 minutes plus. Now, Ken Hitchcock needs to pair him with a better center. Hopefully, that center is Alex Steen. I don’t care if Steen is hurt or not. He’s more promising than Lehtera.
If you asked me why Doug Armstrong felt the need to give Lehtera a three year extension before he completed his first contract, I’d need a minute and a whiskey to answer properly. That’s like asking why a pitcher takes seventeen minute in between pitches or why a hockey player eats a certain kind of sandwich in between games. It’s just what they do. He extended Jay Bouwmeester before he had to. Same with Patrik Berglund. All that money and for what. Lehtera’s contract is the biggest head scratcher.
Lehtera will turn 29 years old on December 23rd. Expecting him to get better isn’t a pipe dream, but it’s also a distant hope. He’s played top line minutes and produced 7 points in 19 games this season. He’s overpaid, overrated, and all together mediocre.
If you try to convince me Lehtera is worth the money or Tarasenko line minutes, I’ll hand you a quart of bleach.
I need more bourbon after writing this.