The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/02/13 at 06:24 PM ET
This morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James pondered where Jordin Tootoo fits into the Red Wings' lineup going forward, pointing out that Wings coach Mike Babcock both lauded Tootoo's regular-season performance and stated taht Tootoo's essentially not the kind of player who's going to find himself skating during the playoffs lest he take an unnecessary penalty. Tootoo chose his words wisely while speaking about his situation with St. James, and he also did so while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“Playoff hockey is very intense and that’s my kind of game,” Tootoo said after cleaning out his locker at Joe Louis Arena on Friday. “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.”
As Pleiness notes, Tootoo didn't play during the Predators' playoff win over the Wings during the 2011-2012 season (and he was benched after taking a costly penalty in the first game of the Wings-Ducks series), and issuing frustration-based comments regarding his benching helped pave his way out of town. Tootoo bit his lip a slightly while telling Pleiness that he more or less dealt with not playing as best as he could:
“Obviously, coming in here with all of the excitement and coming to a new team that I was looking forward to all lockout,” Tootoo said. “I thought with the guys that we have here, we did all we can do. Fortunately I was able to help the guys in the regular season win a few big games. As far as playoffs, every guy wants to play, but at the same time you have to make sure that you pay your dues, put in your time and wait for your call. For me I was ready to go in the first round, second round, it was just waiting for that opportunity. It was pretty much one day at a time.”
The Wings signed Tootoo this past offseason to a three-year deal worth $1.9 million a year. He played in 42 of Detroit’s regular season games, registering three goals and five assists to go along with a team-high 78 penalty minutes.
“You come in with the right mindset knowing that you’re going to have a chance to play every night,” Tootoo said. “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 going to play it’s tough to swallow. But as a professional you have to be able to handle those situations.”
Tootoo, does indeed hope that heading to the East will increase his opportunity to make literal and physical impacts with the Wings both during the regular season and playoff time:
“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,” Tootoo said. “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,” Tootoo added. “I let the business side deal with itself, and I’ve just got to make sure that I’m ready.”
Pleiness also spoke to another Wing who expressed disappointment about his 2013 season performance or the lack thereof. As Pleiness first reported, the walking injury that is Mikael Samuelsson battled a chronic groin issue, a broken finger suffered during a morning skate and a pectoral muscle pull/tear that may very well require surgical repairs...
So Samuelsson falls into the, "Maybe I shouldn't have gotten out of bed this morning...Since I pulled my groin during training camp" territory, and while Samuelsson told Pleiness that he believes that he'll be able to recover from whatever ailed his chest sans surgery, he did endure a nightmarish return-to-Detroit season:
Injuries saw Samuelsson, who may need surgery to repair in injured pectoral muscle, play just four games during the regular season and just five of the Wings’ playoff games.
“It was definitely a frustrating year for me,” Samuelsson said. “Once I thought I was fine, I injured myself again. It’s one thing if you have the same thing, but I had different ones. In my mind it was unbelievable, just fluky injuries that turned out to be kind of bad like this latest one.”
He suffered the pectoral muscle injury on March 31 and missed the final 13 games of the regular season. Returning for Game 7 against Anaheim, he reinjured it again and didn’t play against Chicago.
Samuelsson also suffered a pulled groin and broken finger this season.
“It’s going to heal over the summer,” Samuelsson said. “When I broke my finger in the morning skate, in my mind that should never happen, but obviously it was fluky. Everything seemed to happen to me this year. It doesn’t help that I’m not young anymore and it just doesn’t heal in a heart-beat anymore. When you start to think about it like that it was very frustrating. I wanted to come here and show that I can still play the game and have a very good year. But it didn’t happen this year.”
Like Todd Bertuzzi, who spent most of the season on the IR, Samuelsson has a year left on his contract ($3 million owed; Bertuzzi's going to earn $2.175 million and has a cap hit of $2.075 million) and a no-trade clause (ditto for Bertuzzi), so the Wings may or may not buy him out to alleviate their roster crunch up front...
Though it is entirely possible in Bertuzzi's case that he may have to make a hard decision regarding continuing to play that may place him on the Long-Term Injured Reserve list for the balance of his career with the Wings. His back issues and the pinched nerve in his right leg make Darren Helm's back troubles look like a walk in the park, and while the Wings value Bertuzzi's size, shootout abilities and his leadership (it certainly sounded like Bertuzzi was working very, very hard to keep Smith and the team's other playoff rookies on an even keel), but if he can't recover from his back issues, he can't recover from his back issues.
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