As you may have heard, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks recently added Jordin Tootoo to the roster from the New Jersey Devils for a relatively cheap amount for an equally short duration. His bruiser reputation preceding him, Tootoo has been viewed by some in ‘Hawks Circles as Andrew Shaw’s replacement. Yet, outside of sheer physicality, statistically Tootoo is a far cry from Shaw.
Thus, there are many in Blackhawks Nation that question why Tootoo was even signed at all, and certainly with merit. After all, the Blackhawks still have a lot of offensive questions that need to be answered on all but their second line. So why would ‘Hawks’ GM Stan Bowman seemingly make it a priority to sign a player that has only made it to double digits in terms of goals per season twice in his NHL career, and also brings with him a lot of potential liability in dumb penalties?
First and foremost, contextually speaking, the ‘Hawks have been systematically adding players like Tootoo to the lineup for the better part of the past decade. Daniel Carcillo, John Scott, Jamal Mayers, Adam Burrish, and Brandon Bollig are just a few of the largely forgettable piss-and-vinegar players that had various stints with the ‘Hawks at various times over the years, during which they tended to tally up more penalty minutes than points. Occasionally you’ll have players like the aforementioned that also are able to light the lamp on a consistent basis (i.e. Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw), but they tend to be more exceptions than the rule.
In other words, adding a player like Jordin Tootoo has been more or less the Blackhawks’ modus operandi since they first rose to prominence in 2008. Yet this practice of grabbing a brawler here and there is perhaps so perplexing because the ‘Hawks are a team that is defined and built around speed and skill, and quite successfully at that. So why is having a few players on the roster that are capable of throwing their weight around so crucial?
As mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks have long relied on their speed and talent to win games. Thus, more observant opponents (i.e. the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks) eventually learned the best way to beat the Blackhawks is to throw them off their game with physicality.
While the ‘Hawks have usually let their scoring do the talking, as the core solidified and the Blackhawks’ brass invested more heavily in particular players, the team needed to have ways to retaliate when they would be given the business. To put it plainly, opposing teams could not be allowed to take runs at the likes of Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane with impunity. To put it another way, you don’t spend top dollar on a QB and RB only to leave them at the mercy of a mediocre offensive line (see Bears, Chicago).
Hence, Jordin Tootoo is just the latest player to act as form of insurance policy for the Blackhawks players more central to the franchise’s success. There is the argument that the ‘Hawks already have such a player in Brandon Mashinter, but Mashinter has yet to play a full NHL season, so until he’s a proven quantity, the Hawks will need players like Tootoo to fill the role.
Perhaps what has caused some angst amongst Blackhawks fans with the addition of Tootoo as opposed to another quality offensive forward is that it could be perceived as a sign that Stan Bowman does not have his priorities right. However we have to keep in mind that although we don’t always understand Bowman’s big picture view, he is an opportunist, and saw an opportunity to grab a missing piece for the Blackhawks. Now he needs to find the others.
FOR THE DAGGER!