Olli Jokinen skates against the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
There is a rather delicious irony in the fact the Phoenix Coyotes are scheduled to host the Florida Panthers Saturday night.
Barring an injury, Olli Jokinen of the Coyotes will play his 735th career game that night against his former team. That appearance will eclipse the all-time dubious NHL record, currently held by former Panthers assistant coach Guy Charron, for most NHL career games played without appearing in a playoff game.
Charron wasn’t aware of the impending history when contacted by The Hockey News Wednesday morning and it’s clear it’s an aspect of his playing career he has grown weary of discussing.
“You wish it wasn’t something you had to be reminded of over and over again, year after year,” said Charron, whose playing career included stints with the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals. “It seems I get reminded of it every year. At the beginning it was like, ‘OK, so it happened,’ but it became old pretty quickly. It’s not a big issue for me, but maybe now we’ll stop hearing every playoff about Guy Charron.”
Like Jokinen, the fact Charron didn’t appear in a meaningful springtime game was more a matter of circumstance than anything else. Consider this: his first season with the Canadiens was 1969-70, the only one in which the powerful Canadiens did not reach the playoffs in a period that spanned 46 seasons. The next season, he was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings in a trade that brought the Canadiens Frank Mahovlich. They went on to win the Stanley Cup that spring.
After that, it was a string of bad/expansion teams for Charron where he blossomed as a very good offensive player in the regular season. He led the Scouts in scoring in 1975-76 and the Capitals in 1976-77 and ’77-78.
“I would have taken a lesser role – I would have been a penalty-killer or a third-line center or a player to have a different role – to have an opportunity to play on a winning team,” Charron said. “Sometimes in my case and in Olli’s case, you led the team in scoring and other things, but our plus-minus was never something to be bragged about.
“I think we became players who cheated. It’s not that he’s not capable of being a two-way player, but for a certain number of years he has been asked to be an offensive guy and you cheat and you don’t play the game the way it needs to be played as a team in order to be successful.”
Nobody knows how long Jokinen’s playoff drought will last. But at the age of 29 and playing for a Coyotes team that seems to have some future promise, there’s a good bet Jokinen, unlike Charron, will appear in a post-season game at some point in his career.
But it wasn’t as though Charron had no post-season success as a player. He won a Memorial Cup with the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1969 and led the American League in playoff scoring with eight goals despite playing just eight post-season games for the Montreal Voyageurs. He also won a bronze medal at the World Championship with Canada in 1978.
As a coach, Charron was behind the bench for Canada’s gold medal in the 1990 World Junior Championship and coached in the playoffs as an assistant with the Calgary Flames and Canadiens.
Charron was relieved of his coaching duties in Florida after last season and hopes to get back behind a bench soon.
“I believe I will be back coaching, whether it’s as an assistant in the NHL or head coaching somewhere,” said the 59-year-old Charron. “I believe and hope I’ll still have a chance to win a Stanley Cup.”
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.