I was shocked, as I assume most of you were, yesterday when Jordin Tootoo signed with the Detroit Red Wings. Ryan Suter, however, went according to plan as his indecision continues to plague the Predators.
When I heard the news about Tootoo signing with Detroit, my gut instinct was disgust. Ten hours later, I still feel disgust as the thought of having to face number 22 six times a year set in. Tootoo will never be a player who scores a ton of goals or is an invaluable cog in a defensive scheme, but what he does he does really well: piss off everyone on the other team and win over the crowd.
I have always viewed Tootoo as shorter version of Russell Crowe's character Maximus. In Gladiator, Maximus overcomes great setbacks and personal tragedy by winning his freedom in gladiatorial fights. Tootoo, as all of us know, has succeeded even when he was faced with great adversity and personal loss. He won the crowd over in Nashville, as evident by the hundreds of whistles that you could hear in the confines of a packed Bridgestone Arena. He was a fan favorite in Smashville and an unbelievable community volunteer for the city as well. While Tootoo's contributions on ice may not be substantially missed, his assists off the ice will be sorely missed.
Which brings me to my next point. After his decision to sign with Detroit was announced, there was a large amount of backlash in the Predators' fan base, claiming good riddance and that he wasn't a good player anyways. Personally, I am shocked and appalled by this kind of reaction. 22 has given this franchise everything on and off the ice. Between rehab and literally bleeding for his team anyone who says he didn't do enough for the team is out of their mind. I would encourage fans not to take this low road as it makes our fan base look very unthankful to a great human being. I am certainly not saying it doesn't sting or that I wasn't upset to find that out, but some of the volatile reactions some people have taken need to be reigned in due to their emotions getting the better of them.
Still, Tootoo's departure to Hockeytown is a slap in the face to the Predators' organization as he reportedly took a pay cut to play for the Red Wings. What does this mean? I can't claim to be Tootoo and I don't really know his motivation, but to me this signals a desire to enact some sort of vengeance against the Predators. For those of you who missed out on Tootoo's interview with Cooper in the Tennessean during the playoffs, here is a little tidbit:
"When you get shut down and told you're not playing, it (expletive) burns, after doing everything right, it just (expletive). ... I'm (ticked) off because I'm not able to do what I love to do and that's playing the game.
"Ultimately, I get whose decision it is. But I've been here in every playoff game in the past and I think right from the beginning of the series, you're told you're not playing and ... what the (expletive)?"
"I was told that my play towards the end of the season was awful and they got to go with the guys that are going (well). Inconsistency I guess, I think the only way to get out of that slump is to play games. ... For me, (expletive), you can only get bag-skated so much and mentally it's (expletive), it's straining, it's frustrating."
In fairness, Tootoo wasn't playing well at the end of the season and with the addition of Andrei Kostitsyn and a certain unnamed Russian, he simply did not have a spot on the roster. While I can't confirm this, there was also a rumored altercation between Tootoo and said unnamed Russian during practice. For whatever reason and believe me there are plenty of speculated ones, Tootoo obviously feels like he didn't get a fair shake in Nashville this last season and is obviously upset at either the players, Trotz, or management for the way things were handled.
A motivated Tootoo is a scary Tootoo. I can't imagine playing against a guy like him because he simply hard to play against. Detroit may not have gotten a super star but what they did get was a guy who is willing to battle every night and isn't afraid to get his pound of flesh. Sadly, it will be Nashville who will receive his haymakers this season, as I fear Tootoo finding a new team will get his engines going again and we will see the old scud missile side of him once more. This move also adds fuel to an already sizzling rivalry between both teams, as the Red Wings will be looking for their own pound of flesh for the Weber incident during the playoffs. The first game of the season should be an interesting one.
I thank Tootoo for his service to our community and will be cheering him when he returns to Nashville, even if he has a Dead Thing sweater on his back. I encourage fans to show their thanks and support for 22 by posting some of their favorite memories of him in the comments section.
Ryan Suter, on the other hand, is beginning to bore me. He has been flip flopping for months now and it is time to make a decision. The Predators can't wait on Suter forever as the free agent market begins to thin out and defenseman who would be decent replacements for Suter begin to get snatched up by other teams. It's been speculated that Suter is waiting for Parise to sign somewhere and could potentially pull a Chris Bosh and Lebron James, but I don't see it. I think Suter is having a hard time deciding between staying in a comfortable setting and going somewhere where he will be a minor god while Parise is just trying to find the biggest contract available.
Poile has to have a contingency plan already in place if Suter decides to take his talents elsewhere. We can't afford to not be ready for the worst case scenario.
Either way, I don't see these guys staying unsigned past tomorrow. Suter has had more than a month to figure this one out so it is time for him to put his big boy pants on and make a decision. The clock is ticking.