Silver After Hitting Rock Bottom
Jortikka’s second season with Jokerit (2004-05) went better. More color and spark came into the Finnish Championships because of an NHL lockout season. The exceptional situation brought Ossi Väänänen into Jokerit in the beginning of December. The winner and the second placed teams of the regular season- Kärpät and Jokerit- both made it all the way to the finals.
During this series, Kärpät won the first two matches. In the third match in Oulu, Jokerit managed to get the decisive match to Hartwall Arena by winning 2-1, but Kärpät managed to win the last match 2-0 to take the gold.
Jortikka had announced at the beginning of 2005 that he would quit after the season as the head coach. Waltteri Immonen, who had been in the team to win four championships took over.
Tim Thomas, who had played 14 games without letting in a single goal slipped from the team over to North America just before the 2005-06 season started. Young forward Valtteri Filppula followed suit. None of the pieces in the jigsaw seemed to fall into place. Jokerit let go of Immonen and assistant coach Jouko Lukkarila during the break in November.
Curt Lindström was called in to help. He had coached the Finnish national team to be IIHF World Champions in 1995. CEO Matti Virmanen unexpectedly took the role of the assistant coach. Vesa Suren was also seen on the Jokerit bench. Nothing seemed to help. The 11th place for the 2005-06 season was the worst ever for the club in the League. There was no way into the playoffs.
Harkimo turned – or in fact had already turned during the season – his sights onto Doug Shedden from neighbouring HIFK. He was hired as the new head coach. Shedden took over, and with help from Waltteri Immonen they changed the course of the team immediately. In spring 2007 Jokerit faced Kärpät in Finnish Elite League finals. The victor of the regular season series, Kärpät, did not lose a single game in the playoffs, however. Jokerit had to accept their defeat with 0-3 score in the series.