May 16 2012 08:10AM
Jordin Tootoo, the well-known fourth-line pest and energy guy, is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Should the Oilers go after him?
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson certainly thinks so. Here is what he had to say this past weekend about the possibility:
Jordin Tootoo is an unrestricted free-agent July 1? Do the Oilers need his energy? Yeah, they do. And Tootoo needs a change of scenery. He’s been in Nashville too long. I know The Tootoo Train sometimes goes off the rails, but he’s tempered his over-aggressiveness in the last year. Tootoo, who went through the NHL’s substance abuse program and isn’t drinking any longer, doesn’t seem to fit in Hockeytown any longer judging by only playing two playoff games, but I think he’d be a good fourth-line get-the-crowd-and-the-bench-going guy here. When he’s on his game, he can skate, shoot, disturb, fight, but it depends on the price point. He made $1.35 million this past season with the Predators.
With a reporter as connected as Matheson, it’s always an open question whether he’s speculating on his own or if he’s hinting at something that he’s heard but can’t go on the record with.
Tootoo’s not a bad player. Based on his full NHL career, he’s good for six goals per season and a little under 20 points, which isn’t terrible production for a fourth liner. He’s not a finisher by any stretch but he does take a lot of shots, as Matheson notes.
Does he bring value as an agitator? To some degree. With this sort of player, I always look at penalties drawn. An agitator having a really good year – like Patrick Kaleta in 2009 – can draw up to four times as many penalties as he takes. A fourth-liner can justify his continued NHL existence with those sorts of numbers alone.
Tootoo’s been just okay in that regard this season, but in years past he’s been excellent. Via behindthenet.ca, here are his penalties drawn relative to penalties taken. The “full season” category shows how many extra power plays Tootoo would generate for his team over a projected full season (based on his three-season average of just over 700 minutes played):
Tootoo’s a fourth-liner of average talent otherwise, but in a good year his ability to draw penalties puts him over the top.
The one problem is where he fits – if the Oilers remain committed to an enforcer on the team, that means that Tootoo, Eager and the goon would take up three roster spots, and that’s just too many to spend on that sort of player. If on the other hand the Oilers opted to replace the Hordichuk/MacIntyre role with a guy like Tootoo, or to bring in someone like Zenon Konopka (a fighter who can play too) then I could see him being a solid fit.
I do have my doubts that Steve Tambellini is seriously looking at him, though. Tambellini’s been clear all down the line that he’s looking for a certain type of player, character-wise, and I’m not sure that Tootoo fits. Here’s some of what Tootoo had to say less than a month ago after being a healthy scratch for much of Nashville’s series against Detroit:
“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)?”
“For me, (expletive), you can only get bag-skated so much and mentally it’s (expletive), it’s straining, it’s frustrating.”
“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.”
Given that the Predators were ahead three games to one in the Detroit series when Tootoo made those comments, and that he had gone minus-seven with just a single assist over the final 15 games of the year, a profanity-laced tirade to reporters probably did nothing to endear him to management.
Personally, I think too much gets made of those sorts of comments – Marek Zidlicky’s tamer statement helped get him run out of Minnesota, and he seems to be doing okay in New Jersey – but it is the sort of thing that seems like a poor fit with Tambellini’s management style.
I’d be fine with Tootoo as an Oiler. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.