Resurrection: The act of bringing back to practice, notice, or use; revival.
Jordin Tootoo is back to practice, he is back to being noticed, and back to being a really useful guy on the Nashville Predators lineup. A revival has taken place. For a lot of people this may come as a surprise. They see Tootoo as an instigator and enforcer in the league and they see or remember little else from him. I must admit, in doing a bit of background for this article I got lost in Tootoo’s library of scraps on hockeyfights.com. He is as many say, a honeybadger on skates, and according to a least a few fans “ He’s got to be the pound for pound title holder.” But, what many people forget or do not know is that Jordin Tootoo has fought his way up to this point in a lot more ways than just with his fists.
First, let’s look at the promise that was Jordin Tootoo. He was a monster in the WHL as a Junior. In his last season for the Brandon Wheat Kings Tootoo had 35 goals and 74 points in 51 games. Along with those points he had 216 penalty minutes playing a hybrid of the style of hockey he has been known for in the NHL. He was feared by opposing tough guys as well as opposing goaltenders. In the season before that he had 32 goals and 71 points in 64 games. Tootoo was also one of the rare few players that was at one time referred to as “Captain Canada” as he led the under-18 team to a gold medal in the Four Nations Cup. He also won a silver medal at the World Juniors pitching in 3 points in 6 games.
Other accomplishments in the juniors include an appearance in the top prospects game as one of Canada’s leading junior players in his draft year and had the hardest slapshot at that event with a bullet registering over 96 mph. Tootoo was WHL player of the week more than once and the WHL player of the month as well. He ended up being taken in the fourth round of the draft in 2001 by the Preds and was the first Inuit to play in the NHL.
It was shortly after that where things took the dark turn that some of us remember. Jordin’s brother Terrence, who was also a WHL prospect, took his own life in 2002. How much that affected Jordin is for no one else but him to say but since that time he started to struggle where he had once shined. His legacy was no longer that of a goal scorer and playmaker who could also take care of himself when needed. His legacy had become 4-6 minutes a game and 68 NHL fights. He also served a couple suspensions and never put up more than 18 points in a season.
As what would be a tragic but fitting end to a career that left doubters hating him for his reckless style of play and left supporters knowing that he had more to give, Tootoo ended up volunteering himself into the NHL rehab program in the middle of last season for alcohol abuse. The tide had rolled out and the once rising star had been washed away with it. At 28 years old, and soon to be 29, and in a league where tough guys are starting to finish last it looking like another one was burning out too soon.
A sad story, if that was the end or the beginning of the decline into obscurity. But, that’s not the path of a true fighter. That’s not the path of a Captain. A star. A feared and respected player. That’s not the path that Jordin Tootoo has taken.
This story has been in my head since the 2011 playoffs. You couldn’t help but notice Tootoo getting a lot of icetime and making the best of it. The Preds actually made a lot of teams take notice and Tootoo was rediscovering lost elements of his game. Nashville beat the Ducks and then won two games against the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks. Tootoo had 6 points in 12 games and went from a fourth-line energy guy to pitching in big time on the biggest stage.
So how has he followed that up? So far this year Tootoo has remained fairly healthy, has been active with his “Tootoofund” charity, and is on pace to double his highest NHL season points total. he has remained a solid third liner who is a plus player and whose pitching in offensively with 29 points in 62 games. He has embraced his revival by bringing his penalty minutes down as he is more important on the ice than in the box.
All in all, it’s been a rollercoaster and for those players, like Tootoo, who play on the edge it almost always is. There have been some tragic stories in the past and more recently of similar players going over the edge in one way or another and very recently it appeared Tootoo was there himself. It’s really something when one comes back from that. With the Predators poised for another trip to the playoffs look for Tootoo to have another strong performance. That’s tough hockey, that’s where you have to fight for every square foot of ice, and that’s where a man like Tootoo is at his best.