The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/11/13 at 12:13 PM ET
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.
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