When the New York Islanders announced Jesse Joensuu was returning from a one-year Swedish interregnum in his own Making of an NHL Regular saga, we jokingly announced him as "flåbuse" -- a reference to a Swedish article that had described Joensuu's role for HV71 as the SEL season reached its climax.
We're not Swedish speakers, but we know how to find the Google, and flåbuse roughly translates as "brutal person, hooligan, roughneck, caveman, rascal, scoundrel, troublemaker." Historically: A person who has to skin dead animals and bury the bodies.
Most Islanders fans would say this metaphor does not fit the Joensuu they saw during his Entry Level Contract with the Islanders and AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Judging by the quotes below, coach Jack Capuano agrees.
Yet it appears Joensuu has gone through the self-actualization that all NHL bottom-six forwards must complete if they wish to adapt to a regular NHL role in a league where the best in the world already claim the glamorous jobs.
From the team's official sites, with some informative quotes, first from Capuano on the side journey back to Europe:
"It’s very important for each player to do what is best for his own development," Capuano said. "There’s a lot of times that players play different roles. You could be a top scorer in the American Hockey League and come up and not play that role in the NHL."
Joensuu, on how he feels after the year away:
"I’m not in the same position as some of the 18 and 19-year-olds who teams expect more out of than players my age and in my situation. At the same time, I feel much more confident, much more mature and much more ready to play in the NHL. I’m prepared to take the next step and become an NHLer full-time."
Capuano said when he had Joensuu in Bridgeport as a teenager, he tried to do too much:
"When he and I first started there we had different opinions on how he needed to play."
Now though, after talking to Joensuu again this summer, Capuano thinks the mindset has changed:
"I think when you're 19 or 20 years old, sometimes it’s tough to change your game. To me he is in the right frame of mind. He knows what he has to do with our organization and that’s to be physical, use his size and get to those areas of the ice that we need him to get to."
"...from talking to him recently, he gets it now," Capuano said. "The first thing he said to me was ‘I understand now what you were trying to say and what you were trying to preach.’ So we both have a clear understanding of how he needs to play."
Joensuu's return is a low-risk move for both sides: His one-year, NHL deal is a bare-bones salary, and if he doesn't make the club he has an out clause to return to Europe.
It was clear in the past that Joensuu probably didn't have the combination of skills to forge a top-six, traditional scoring role in the NHL. But he had the size and skills to be a useful nuisance -- if, that is, his mindset and skating could match.
We'll see if the skills and ability to win a job in training camp is there. But it sounds like the other half of the equation is already in place.