DETROIT – Jordin Tootoo experienced this year’s playoffs like he did last season while with the Nashville Predators, mainly from the pressbox.
Tootoo played in just one of the Wings’ 14 playoff games this year, being a healthy scratch the other 13.
“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.”
Tootoo played in Detroit’s series opener with Anaheim, totaling just a little over six minutes of ice time in a 3-1 defeat.
“I thought Toots was great for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He did everything we wanted. He was physical, he gave us energy. The type of player he is, he gets way more opportunity early in the season when it’s being silly and then he doesn’t in the end. But I thought he was fantastic for us. We’re thrilled with him. Maybe if you’re on the outside looking it, you say Toots never played, but I thought he was great.”
In his only appearance in the postseason with the Wings he recorded their first penalty of the series for a crosscheck that the Ducks promptly scored on just four seconds into the man advantage.
“There are no penalties in the playoffs, you just can’t take a penalty in the playoffs,” Babcock said when asked why Tootoo didn’t play in the postseason. “There’s not as much stuff after the whistle, there’s mauling each other but there’s not that stuff. So you look at Chicago, where’s (Brandon) Bollig and (Jamal) Mayers and where were all their guys? Same, place Toots was. That just seems to be the way it is.”
Tootoo played in just three of the Predators’ playoff games a year ago after coming off a career-high 12 postseason appearances where he registered a career-high six points.
“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.”
A move to the Eastern Conference, which is believed to be a more physical league, could open up more playing time for Tootoo next season.
“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.”
Tootoo led the Wings with eight fighting majors, which was six behind the league leader this season, Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen.
Despite this being a lockout-shortened 48-game regular season, Tootoo registered high most fighting majors since totaling 10 in the 2008-09 season with Nashville.