Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Savage ponders where Jordin Tootoo fits in with the Red Wings going forward

This qualifies as an emptying-out-the-notebook article, but MLive's Brendan Savage offers points regarding Jordin Tootoo's up-and-down season with the Red Wings that are worth repeating.

Tootoo wound up taking a prominent role as a forechecking forward as well as a "shift disturber" and enforcer over the course of 42 games played during his 2013 season capaign with the Wings, but Tootoo only played in one playoff game, and both Wings fans and the team's media corps wondered why a player the team will be paying a total of $4 million over the next two seasons was a healthy scratch.

About thirteen months ago, Tootoo made some Ian White-style comments regarding his future with the Predators after spending the team's first-round series against Detroit in the press box, but this time around, as Savage noted, Tootoo was much more circumspect about his status...

"Yeah, you come in with the right mindset knowing that you're going to have a chance to play every night," said Tootoo, who appeared in 12 playoff games in 2010-11. "I kind of went through this last year with Nashville in the playoffs, not being able to play, but you know, you've got to go with what's put in front of you.

"Obviously when you're told that you're not going to be in the lineup – I'm sure every hockey player can attest to this – it's not a good feeling. We're born to be competitive and play with our hearts out, and when you're told that you're not to, it's tough to swallow. But as a professional you have to be able to handle those situations."

Tootoo's lone playoff action with the Red Wings came in the opener of the series against Anaheim, a 3-1 loss on the road. He hit the ice for a team-low 6 minutes, 24 seconds, drew one minor penalty and never got into the lineup again as the Red Wings rallied to beat the Ducks in seven games before losing in seven against Chicago.

Tootoo felt he had more to offer the Red Wings in the postseason.

"Playoff hockey is very intense and that's my kind of game," he said. "Obviously you've got to make sure what you think is the right combination of guys in the lineup to win, and obviously I wasn't part of that combination. But you never know. Guys go down, things happen, there are a lot of ups and downs. Mentally, physically, I was prepared to be thrown into the battle."

With the Wings facing a roster crunch and Tootoo possessing a $1.9 million cap hit despite being paid $2 million per season for the next two years, Savage wonders whether Tootoo might be bought out by the team, but Tootoo still wants to be a Red Wing, and as many pundits have stated, Savage points out that Tootoo's role with the team may increase as it transits to the rough-and-tumble Eastern Conference:

"They know what I bring night in and night out, and obviously next year we're moving over to the East so there's going to be a lot of differences," said Tootoo, 30. "I've only played in the Western Conference my whole career. It'll be interesting to see what happens. For me, it's making sure that I'm physically and mentally prepared for training camp and the beginning of the season. I let the business side deal with itself, and I've just got to make sure that I'm ready.

"It's all going to be new to everybody" in the East.

As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted a week-and-a-half ago, Wings coach Mike Babcock insisted that he was quite happy with Tootoo's performance...

Speaking Friday as the Wings gathered for one last time as a group this season, coach Mike Babcock had nothing but positive reviews for Tootoo. “I thought Toots was great for us. He did everything we wanted from him. He came in, he was physical, he gave us energy.”

But Babcock also offered this take on Tootoo's value come playoff time:

As the games grew in importance, Tootoo’s value diminished. “Those guys, the type of player he is,” Babcock said, “gets way more opportunity early in the season, when it’s being silly, than he does in the end and in the playoffs. There’s no penalties in the playoffs. You just can’t take a penalty in the playoffs. There’s not as much stuff after the whistle. There’s mauling each other, but there’s not that stuff.”

Babcock reiterated that he “was thrilled” with Tootoo, but $1.9 million a season is a lot to pay a guy with limited value. Given how much competition there is expected to be for jobs next season, if Tootoo doesn’t fit into playoff plans again next spring, the Wings might buy out his contract, which would then be entering its last year. One upside for Tootoo: The Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference, renowned for being more physical. That could work to his advantage.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Hootinani's avatar

I’m sure Toots is a professional, but why would any player want to give it their all to get to the playoffs, knowing that there is a good chance they’ll be scratched once they start?

Posted by Hootinani on 06/11/13 at 01:40 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

As the games grew in importance, Tootoo’s value diminished. “Those guys, the type of player he is,” Babcock said, “gets way more opportunity early in the season, when it’s being silly, than he does in the end and in the playoffs. There’s no penalties in the playoffs. You just can’t take a penalty in the playoffs. There’s not as much stuff after the whistle. There’s mauling each other, but there’s not that stuff.”

Hmmm…. interesting

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 06/11/13 at 02:09 PM ET

perfection's avatar

why would any player want to give it their all to get to the playoffs, knowing that there is a good chance they’ll be scratched once they start?

don’t suppose the $2mil has anything to do with it…

the only reason a player like Tootoo is even in the league, let alone making that kind of dough is because he “gives it his all”. that’s his most redeeming attribute.

and for the record, I thought he was pretty spectacular in his limited role this season. While I hear where Babs is coming from regarding the game changing come playoff time, Tootoo was an insanely effective agitator. He drew FAR more penalties than he took. But again, that skill just becomes so much less important come playoff time. It seems like most teams have a Tootoo type player sitting in the press box during playoffs. Maybe not at that salary… that is the tough part to swallow with Toots. He makes a lot to play 6min a night or be a healthy scratch.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 06/11/13 at 02:10 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Tootoo is one of the highest point producing fighters in the league. 

Smith took a lot of PIM’s.. Kronwall took a LOT..  Tootoo’s penalty was a penalty they pretty much stopped calling by Game 2.

There were SEVERAL games where the Wings didn’t show up and Tootoo went out and started crushing people and forechecking and occasionally fighting to get his team engaged.  We barely made the playoffs, without him waking the team up repeatedly early on in the season, we don’t make it.  I think you reward that with ice-time.  I think uncle mike was worried about reputation calls and that’s a shame cause Tootoo brings a lot to the table.. not to mention some of those slick net-front passes he was making at the end of the season when the bottom 6 started cruising.

I’d be very disappointed in the organization if they bought him out.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 02:27 PM ET

Avatar

What has happened is why the day he was signed I was highly critical of the move.

The only way Tootoo’s deal made even the slightest bit of sense at the time was if he was going to be played 14+ minutes a night.  If not, then getting him was a stupid mistake.

And it was.  Of course, everyone lectured me about all the intangibles and ‘guts’ Tootoo brought to the table.  Alas.

The issue moving forward is if it makes any sense at all to buy out his fairly cheap contract, trade him, or if the team should just slug around with him.  Really, the problem isn’t Tootoo’s contract (which was stupid, but still).  It’s the roster spot.

I think Tootoo has enough value that the Wings might be able to find a taker for him as part of a package, if that’s the way they choose to go.  I suspect, however, the team will keep him around for organizational veteran depth in the almost certain event of injuries cropping up ahead of him on the depth chart.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 06/11/13 at 02:28 PM ET

Avatar

We barely made the playoffs, without him waking the team up repeatedly early on in the season, we don’t make it. 

Holy bleep.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 06/11/13 at 02:29 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I’d also point out that Uncle Mike wasn’t into Kindl.. for whatever reason.. never gave him a chance to mess up without benching him vs. how he’s handled others.  Kindl was looking to be on the outs.  Uncle Mike’s hand gets forced with injuries and he’s got to play him.. now he’s looking like the player he was before the Wings called him up.  I think Tootoo deserved a shot, as a veteran and what he did for the team early on.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 02:30 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Posted by
     
    HockeyinHD
     
      on 06/11/13 at 03:29 PM ET

At least you don’t pretend like you actually watch the games.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 02:31 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Seems like you really come out of the woodwork once the seasons over too.  I think that’s my cue to haitus KK for a while.  Tired of your yapping after every post and anti-military, condescending, uneducated yet lengthy diatribes you’re always posting for all the people who routinely ignore you.  I’m pretty sure people around here prefer conversations with EvilPens more than you.  That doesn’t hit home for you?  That doesn’t make you introspect for a minute?  Seriously?

You’re a Duncan Keith.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 02:36 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Tootoo is one of the highest point producing fighters in the league. 
Smith took a lot of PIM’s.. Kronwall took a LOT..  Tootoo’s penalty was a penalty they pretty much stopped calling by Game 2.
There were SEVERAL games where the Wings didn’t show up and Tootoo went out and started crushing people and forechecking and occasionally fighting to get his team engaged.  We barely made the playoffs, without him waking the team up repeatedly early on in the season, we don’t make it.  I think you reward that with ice-time.  I think uncle mike was worried about reputation calls and that’s a shame cause Tootoo brings a lot to the table.. not to mention some of those slick net-front passes he was making at the end of the season when the bottom 6 started cruising.
I’d be very disappointed in the organization if they bought him out.
Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 03:27 PM ET

I agree

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 06/11/13 at 02:56 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 03:27 PM ET

Tootoo is one of the highest point producing fighters in the league.

Care to elaborate, or be specific about who you are comparing him to? Of the 10 guys with more major penalties this season than Tootoo, 4of them matched or exceeded his point total (8 points!). Of the 9 guys below him in the top 20 in majors, 5 of them matched or exceeded 8 points. Sounds like when it comes to goons scoring, he is entirely average.

There were SEVERAL games where the Wings didn’t show up and Tootoo went out and started crushing people and forechecking and occasionally fighting to get his team engaged.  We barely made the playoffs, without him waking the team up repeatedly early on in the season, we don’t make it.

This logic is so flawed. First of all, the facts simply don’t back it up. Of the games in which Tootoo fought and the Wings won (5 games), only 1 of those fights happened when the Wings were trailing. Second of all, it does not follow that you are crediting Tootoo with being the difference-maker in this game (let alone enough games to have single-handedly got them into the playoffs). Don’t Filppula, Kronwall, and Datsyuk deserve credit for the goals they put on the board in that Edmonton game where the Wings did come from behind after Tootoo dropped the glove? Tootoo’s fight might have been a part of turning the game around, but shit, all the players are paid to win hockey games. Tootoo is not a difference-maker except for on rare occasions.

In 2002, or 1997, or 1998, you can pay a guy $2 million to play 8 minutes a game where he’ll forecheck hard, run opposing D into the wall, and drop the gloves to keep the flies up and/or energize his team. In 2013, with a salary cap, a much more power-play-centric game, and more balanced skill across the league, $2 million is a lot of money for Tootoo’s skill set.

I was never a big fan of the signing, but in retrospect, I can appreciate what Holland was doing—he was making a fair assumption that the team was going to struggle a bit in a few transitional years, and that Tootoo was the type of guy that can keep the flies off of your Nyquist’s and Tatar’s as they acclimate to the physicality of the NHL. Also, let’s be honest… Holland knows that part of his job is keeping butts in the seats, and if he expected the team to win less games for a few seasons as they rebuild, every fanbase enjoys going to the rink to see a good donnybrook.

But now, we’ve had a season in which guys like Ericsson and Quincey stepped back forward and showed value, and guys like Kindl, Nyquist, Tatar, Andersson, and Brunner showed that they are much more NHL-ready and able to produce in this lineup than we may have expected. I’m not predicting a Cup next year or anything, but suddenly, there really isn’t a place for Tootoo on this team given how well Nyquist, Andersson, Brunner, and Tatar played this year, let alone how well Danny Cleary bounced back on the stretch and playoff run.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/11/13 at 03:10 PM ET

Primis's avatar

I’m sure Toots is a professional, but why would any player want to give it their all to get to the playoffs, knowing that there is a good chance they’ll be scratched once they start?

Posted by Hootinani on 06/11/13 at 02:40 PM ET

Because he’s an enforcer, and that’s the reality.  If he doesn’t like it, he can always go overseas or there’s the AHL or ECHL.  He’d play more there.  He’s not likely to get much more in the NHL.  While Brian Burke may bemoan the loss of roles for these guys,  I don’t feel particularly sorry that guys with limited skillsets often find themselves pushed out.  It makes for a better game.

I don’t necessarily agree that there’s more of a place for him in the East.  While there are more traditional “enforcers” in the East, the West fights just as much (though maybe without the dedicated enforcers).  Go look up the season stats for fighting majors and there’s really no difference between the conferences.  The fights in the East just get more press because they’re the East.

http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/stats/teamsort/NHL/T-FMAJ/

 

Posted by Primis on 06/11/13 at 03:14 PM ET

Avatar

I don’t necessarily agree that there’s more of a place for him in the East.  While there are more traditional “enforcers” in the East, the West fights just as much (though maybe without the dedicated enforcers).  Go look up the season stats for fighting majors and there’s really no difference between the conferences.  The fights in the East just get more press because they’re the East.

Look at the Bruins lineup, they have talented fighters on all four lines including the top lines.  Guys like Lucic, Horton etc. all the way down to Thornton.  These are the types of lineups the Wings will be facing night in and night out. Most teams in the Western Conference don’t have as many power forward types as they do in the East.  Most are just as you mentioned, enforcer types with no other skill set.. It is a known fact that the East is much more physical because most of the teams are stacked with physical players who are counted on to contribute.  Not so much in the Western Conference.  As already stated, many Wings players were praising Tootoo and his physical play as turning points in the games over the season.

Posted by bababooey on 06/11/13 at 03:55 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by bababooey on 06/11/13 at 04:55 PM ET

Forgive my lack of reading comprehension, but are you defending Tootoo or saying the Wings should get rid of him?

Posted by Garth on 06/11/13 at 04:15 PM ET

Avatar

Keep him, he can be an effective every day player for the 4th line.

Posted by bababooey on 06/11/13 at 04:24 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Sure Nathan, I’ll elaborate.

Orr -24
Crombeen - 64
M. Brown - 26
Clune - 11
McLaren - 11
Boll - 52
Prust - 77
Konopka - 27
Fraser - 16
Thorburn - 86
Parros - 35.
Tootoo - 133

That’s the fighting major leaders in order and career points.  That’s what I meant by my statement.  Big picture, I’m usually being accused of not looking at it.  Tootoo by far leads in average points per season among this group as well, by a large percent.

didn’t read the rest of your post, sorry.  I don’t think my logic is flawed at all.  If Cleary is still getting opportunities even when he can’t walk because he did good 4 years ago, Toots should get a REAL shot for what he put in, especially when we started getting on the receiving end of the physicality, especially given Patrick Eaves has played in the NHL a year longer and has 10 points more than him.  He proved he can go to hard areas, get the puck and set guys up at the end of the season.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 05:04 PM ET

Avatar

I can easily see a 4th line of Tootoo-Helm-Eaves causing a lot of mayhem next year.  If Miller does take a payday elsewhere, then Toots spot on the roster is a little more secure.  That said, if he is playing then he has to get more ice time or our top lines are going to keep getting worn down come crunch time in the third period.

Yeah, we all know Helm isn’t a sure thing.

And yeah, I think Emmerton is trade bait.

Posted by maltby18 on 06/11/13 at 05:26 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

FTR: The Wings had initially planned on dressing a line of Bertuzzi, Helm and Tootoo to both forecheck the hell out of teams and provide a little offense.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/11/13 at 05:32 PM ET

Avatar

And yeah, I think Emmerton is trade bait.

I really like Emmerton after this season, but in what world is he trade bait?  Who is going to give up something for a solid but unexceptional fourth liner?

Posted by Garth on 06/11/13 at 10:05 PM ET

Avatar

The Wings need someone to fill that role.  Who is better than Tootoo on the Wings, or who better is available to fill that role?

Posted by itsfun on 06/12/13 at 07:05 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

didn’t read the rest of your post, sorry.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 06/11/13 at 06:04 PM ET

Says it all, doesn’t it?

I don’t think looking at Tootoo’s career points is particularly meaningful. He will never have as big a role with the Wings as he did in Nashville unless the Wings drastically change their organizational philosophy. So I don’t see a lot of value in looking at his career numbers, that encompass a career mostly spent on a Nashville club that gave him more ice time to accrue those numbers than Babcock and Holland will ever afford him here.

If your argument is that you think the Wings would be a better team if Tootoo was given a role like he had in Nashville, I couldn’t disagree more. If I can sound like an arrogant Wings fan for a moment… that’s a huge step back for this club. This is the club that set the bar for success, and set the blueprint for the puck possession hockey that the Hawks and Pens won Cups with.

Now, if you want to tell me, like bababooey, that the Wings would be a better team with a guy like Lucic or Horton, I’m all ears. Those players are tough and are above average hockey players in every area, not borderline NHL/AHL fringe like Tootoo.

Look at the Bruins lineup, they have talented fighters on all four lines including the top lines.

Posted by bababooey on 06/11/13 at 04:55 PM ET

That’s a great point, but it doesn’t dispute what I’m arguing. Tootoo is NOT a “talented” fighter. There is a talent gap the size of an ocean between Tootoo and Lucic or Horton. The Wings would do well to make a run at Horton on the UFA market. Those guys are more of a throwback to the dimension Shanahan brought this team after the 1996 fiasco. Tootoo is more like when they brought back Kocur, except with Kocur coming back, there was no cap, and you had two HOF players at every position already, except for goalie.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/12/13 at 07:59 AM ET

Avatar

The Wings would do well to make a run at Horton on the UFA market.

Absolutely.

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 08:18 AM ET

wedge56's avatar

I really like Emmerton after this season, but in what world is he trade bait?  Who is going to give up something for a solid but unexceptional fourth liner?

—The team that Miller doesn’t sign with?  Emmerton is still a solid two way forward for someone’s fourth line.  I don’t see getting much for him alone, but as part of a package with a bigger name, we could get a decent pick or a live body.  Who knows what Emmerton could do with more ice time?  Look at what happened when Quincey left.

Posted by wedge56 on 06/12/13 at 08:35 AM ET

Avatar

The team that Miller doesn’t sign with?

Sure, but the difference between signing a fourth liner and trading for a fourth liner is huge.

Again, I like Emmerton and think he really proved himself this year (and I’d like it if the Wings keep him), but is there really a team that would prefer to trade for a fourth liner rather than use that sport for their own fourth liner or a prospect who could be promoted to the NHL?

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 09:26 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I’m sure Toots is a professional, but why would any player want to give it their all to get to the playoffs, knowing that there is a good chance they’ll be scratched once they start?

no player would want that.  which is why it’s so perplexing that he doesn’t wake up and change his style of play, and stop leaving his brain on the bench for some of his shifts.  two teams in a row benched him in the playoffs.  when does he realize HE is the problem?

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 06/12/13 at 12:18 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I really like Emmerton after this season, but in what world is he trade bait?  Who is going to give up something for a solid but unexceptional fourth liner?

you like him right?  so doesn’t it stand to reason others (as in GMs) like him too?  if he’s so unexceptional then why do you like him?

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 06/12/13 at 12:44 PM ET

Avatar

Sure, but the difference between signing a fourth liner and trading for a fourth liner is huge.

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 10:26 AM ET

Because of that.

if he’s so unexceptional then why do you like him?

Because as I said, i think he’s solid but unexceptional.

Jesus F*cking Christ, reading isn’t that hard, is it?

Posted by Garth on 06/12/13 at 01:42 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

the point I was trying to make, Garth, is that if YOU LIKE HIM, why wouldn’t someone else?  obviously there is something to like!  so why wouldn’t a team trade for him?  sure, maybe they’re not going to trade three draft picks, two prospects, a 40 goal scorer and a new private plane for him…but that’s not the point.  since Holland and Babcock are clearly intent on hoarding draft picks, if they don’t think he fits with the team going forward then surely they could get a draft pick for him from a team who could use a “solid but unexceptional” 4th liner for cheap.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 06/12/13 at 02:04 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

also, I do believe that “trade bait” also frequently refers to being something to “sweeten the pot” for a trade that a team is on the fence about.  in other words… “hey what if we throw in Emmerton, too?”

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 06/12/13 at 02:05 PM ET

Avatar

the point I was trying to make, Garth, is that if YOU LIKE HIM, why wouldn’t someone else?  obviously there is something to like!  so why wouldn’t a team trade for him?

Yes, and the point that I’ve made TWICE that you CONTINUE to ignore is that there’s a difference between signing a fourth line and trading for one.

Would you trade for every player you ever liked?  Would you sign every player that you like to whatever contract they want?  No, of course not.

I like Emmerton because he has developed into a pretty good player, but all he has ever cost the Red Wings is contract money.  They didn’t have to give anything up for him, they just had to use one of their free draft picks to take him.

So yes, I like him, but if he was in Dallas or Montreal or Edmonton I wouldn’t neccesarily feel like I’d give up something to acquire him.  He’s a fourth liner.  He’s solid, but not exceptional.

As a fourth liner who is solid but not exceptional and who was drafted by Detroit and developed in Grand Rapids, eventually promoted to the Red Wings as the 13th forward and who didn’t play his way off the team when given the chance to pla every day, I like him.  If he were in Dallas and they allowed him to enter free agency and I needed to fill a fourth line hole on my roster, I might consider giving him a chance, but I don’t know why I would give anything up to get him.

Any team that doesn’t have SOMEONE in their system who can be the 13th forward who is capable of playing 10 minutes a game if an injury comes up is in serious, serious trouble.

Posted by Garth on 06/13/13 at 12:07 PM ET

Avatar

And no, sorry, “bait” isn’t something you throw in to sweeten the pot.  Bait is what you use to attract the fish.

Posted by Garth on 06/13/13 at 12:08 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.