With the season over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Jordin Tootoo.
|2010 - Jordin Tootoo||54||8||10||18||8||61||0||0||1||85||9.4|
To provide today's player profile, we've brought in the maestro of one of the most active venues for Nashville Predators conversation, Paul Nicholson. He founded the @Predfans Twitter group as an implementation of his ReTweet bot application (Twitfinite), and maintains his personal blog called Geek Thoughts. Besides technically facilitating a steady stream of Preds chat on Twitter, Paul has been known to provoke discussion with informed, insightful takes on the team over the years.
Establishing expectations for Jordin Tootoo is tough in any given season. You know a few things he'll reliably give you - draw 50% more penalties than he takes and deliver a point every 3-5 games - but every year he seems to change his game a bit more than most players, depending on what his team needs.
A little history lesson might put this in perspective: In 2003 Tootoo came straight to the Preds from the WHL and played a full 70 games with the club as a 20-year old (something very rare in Preds history, even for skilled players in the early years). His role that year consisted mainly of a hard-nosed pest willing to drop the gloves. After a year in Milwaukee during the '04-'05 lockout, he split the 2005-0006 season between the NHL (34 games) and AHL (41 games) in a much more limited role, taking what appeared to be a major step back for his career. While never a liability on the ice the way some classic ‘enforcers' could be (cough*Belak*cough), Tootoo was challenged to become a more well-rounded player and soon learned to be better at both ends of the ice (though for the first several years of his NHL career a Tootoo possession still generally ended up as an immediate slapshot on goal upon crossing the blueline). He changed quite a few fundamentals of his game and seemed to pick up new skills after hitting the NHL. Something you don't see too often.
The other real challenge to pegging expectations for Tootoo is his trouble on the injury front. Likely a result of his "all out" playing style, he has lost time for a hip flexor, a broken foot, a neck injury, several groin pulls, multiple back spasms, and a bruised tailbone, and then of course he's missed time for a suspension, all adding up to 85 games missed as a pro in his career. He isn't exactly Rick "porcelain doll" DiPietro, but at this point it is pretty safe to assume that between injuries and scratches you'll never get a full season out of Tootoo (his season high in games played as a pro is 72 with an average of 63).
So what were the expectations heading into this year for Tootoo? That he would continue to be a consistent pest for opponents, be a rare but opportunistic scorer, and bring energy every single time he stepped on the ice.
I almost feel like I could copy this site's write-up from Tootoo's 07-08 season with a few tweaks...so I will:
A hip flexor injury derailed what was a real coming-out party for Tootoo this season; extraordinary discipline in terms of penalties (especially considering his high-intensity, physical game) and badly needed goal scoring have combined to make Tootoo a valuable NHL forward, earning him a two-year contract extension. He didn't spend significant time playing on special teams, but in 5-on-5 action he helped tip the balance in terms of Shots For and Against, and provided the hard hitting that makes a team difficult to compete against. Grade: B
Tootoo finished with the same 18 points as his career-high ‘07-‘08 campaign with 9 fewer games played this season. Though he scored fewer goals (8 this year), his assist total reveals his new-found ability to make plays. Gone are the days of the automatic blueline-crossing slapshot. This year's edition of Tootoo's game involved skillful passes, both of the "playmaking" variety and the type that extended possession for his team. His shooting percentage was up as well: up to 9.4%, much higher than his average of 6.3 and just below his career high of 11.2% reached in ‘07-'08.
Of course instead of a hip flexor injury shortening his season, this year Tootoo's season was abbreviated by his decision to voluntarily enter the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse Program, a step applauded by many (myself included). While it robbed the Preds of a valuable player in a year they were hit hard with injuries, it clearly benefited Tootoo both on and off the ice. He seemed to play with a new confidence upon his return.
On ice: Tootoo turned in one of his strongest offensive performances to date while continuing to broaden his game into a more balanced, two-way game. He was a valuable player that Trotz frequently rotated between the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines, and on rare occasions he even saw special teams ice time. While you'd like to hope he could have contributed more on the scoreboard, he was a solid player that generally made his line better. On-Ice grade: B+
Off-ice: It is worth commenting that without the time off in the substance abuse program we might well have been giving Toots an "A" for on-ice performance. He likely would have set a career high in assists and goals, and it's a foregone conclusion he would have set a personal best in points (taking the playoffs into account, he did). But I don't know anyone who thinks Tootoo shouldn't have taken the time off this year. The decision he made to put his career on hold to take care of his personal life was an amazingly gutsy move. I look forward to seeing what ‘the new Tootoo' brings to the ice next year. Off-Ice grade: A++