Been a looooong time since I've posted anything on these boards. I still read posts every morning over coffee, but rarely contribute to the conversation. There is something that has been bothering me lately, though, so I thought I'd post it and see what other people thought.
I read a couple of interviews about Tootoo not too long ago, where Babcock stated that Tootoo was a regular season role-player, but would probably never be used in the playoffs because of his tendency to get physical after the whistle. Tootoo was then interviewed afterwards and seemed kind of disheartened by Babcock's sentiment, but still admitted that he would play any role needed and could understand being sat.
I still don't really understand it though. And it kind of saddens me.
Babcock said that after we move to the East next season, Tootoo might garner more minutes since we will be playing in a more physical division. I understand this, and I agree. However, I was very excited about the Tootoo signing because he is a fast, energy-driven machine on the ice that does far more for the team than just fight. Every time he was on the ice, I noticed him. He was taking shots, finishing checks, and instigating the other team into taking penalties. He showed far more value last season than just that of an enforcer. I just wish he was rewarded for it.
Half of me feels like dressing Tootoo in these past playoffs could've been that edge that we needed. Not only is he a spark plug every shift, but I feel like he would've provided the speed and grit we would've needed to push deeper into the playoffs. Similar to Helm or even Maltby in the past. We need that person to go out and get under their skin a little. Abby tried to fill that role, but took less-timely penalties than Tootoo might've. It's all speculation at this point, I guess.
My last point, and sorry for rambling, is that negatively reinforcing Tootoo's hard work by benching him could make him feel like he has to change his game in order to maintain his TOI, which is EXACTLY WHAT I DON'T WANT. He was playing very well. I hope he continues to play his game the way he does.
Similar to the posts I read on here about "Trade Smith ASAP", I feel that Smith was brought in to be a speedy, puck moving defenseman but has conversely started trying to switch his playstyle because Bab's started benching him or cutting his minutes. I wish we gave our players time to play their own game (which is why we originally brought them into the team), instead of penalizing them for doing exactly that. It sends mixed signals.
Does Tootoo go out next season and play his game the way he likes, or does he go out and try to be a playmaking forward with very little physical presence because he fears getting his minutes cut or getting benched?
Sorry for the long thread for those of you who read the whole thing. Thoughts?
TL;DR - Tootoo was benched for our entire playoff run because Babs feared his physical playstyle would hurt us through penalties. I feel like he could have had a positive impact on our playoff run if he had actually been given a chance. Could the Wings have gone further with his help? Will babs benching him affect the way he plays next season, even if that means shedding the physical aspect of his play?