Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tootoo becoming complete player for Preds



Jordin Tootoo has been a fan favorite in Nashville since he first came on the scene with the Predators in the 2003-2004 season. His rambunctious style of play, and his bone-shattering hits, made him an instant star among the Nashville faithful.

He's often been described as a player that every team hates to play against but would love to have on their team. Tootoo has always been a player that brings a heavy physical presence on a nightly basis. Nowadays, however, the opposition also has to worry about Tootoo's offensive capabilities.

Tootoo has 13 points in 31 games played so far this season, which is only five points away from his career high of 18 points that he's reached twice in his NHL career. He's on pace to almost double that amount.

"I think as the years go on you become more comfortable," Tootoo said. "Obviously, with my off-ice activities, I've bettered myself in that way. The game has just slowed down a half of a second for me, and that makes a big difference."

"He's just going to the hard areas. He's got a lot of detail. He's trying to shoot and he's got awareness," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. "He's made some big changes in his life, which allows him to perform at that level. There's not the inconsistency. He has an impact on almost every shift."

The changes that Tootoo made in his life stem back to last season when he voluntarily checked himself into the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program of the NHL and NHLPA. Since coming back from that, Tootoo has started to become a complete hockey player for the Predators.

"When you're mentally in the right place, things tend to just fall into place for you. This is the best I've felt since my first year in the league so I've just got to stay healthy and keep plugging away," Tootoo said.

Trotz has seen the improvements that Tootoo has made both on the ice and off of the ice over the past year, and has gradually been increasing his ice time. He is averaging 13:34 of ice time per game, which is 1:29 more than his career-high average of 12:05 in the 2008-2009 season.

"He has deserved some more ice time. He gets the 5-on-5 stuff. On an offensive standpoint, he's seeing a little bit of power play. Not a lot, but a little bit. He's just playing a really solid two-way game right now," Trotz said.

Tootoo has definitely seemed to be more comfortable out on the ice in those late-game situations, and he also sees the trust that Trotz has in him by giving him more ice time.

"It shows that he trusts my game. My foundation is being a physical player, and that creates room out there not only for myself but for my linemates as well," Tootoo said.

Since he came into the league, Tootoo has always been expected to be more of an offensive threat for the Predators. His offensive production through the first part of this season seems to suggest that Tootoo is well on his way to becoming the complete player that the Predators' coaches and fans have always thought he could be.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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