Originally written on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 10/29/14
Nashville_predators_v_5edc
NASHVILLE One element was noticeably lacking when the Detroit Red Wings lost in five games in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last year to the Nashville Predators. Namely, it was grit. When Predators captain Shea Weber slammed the head of the Wings' Henrik Zetterberg into the boards at the conclusion of Game 1, it fell to aging veteran Todd Bertuzzi to respond in Game 2 by challenging Weber to a fight. Truly, he was about the only one on the team capable of doing so. So what did the Red Wings do on the first day of NHL free agency last year? They signed one of Nashville's grittiest players, fan favorite Jordin Tootoo, to a three-year, 5.7-million deal. On Tuesday, Tootoo made his first trip back to play against the team with which he spent his first eight seasons. Fresh insights were all around. He said after inking his deal, there were no meetings with coach Mike Babcock or general manager Ken Holland. "I think I know my role pretty well," he said. "My foundation is being physical out there and creating room for my linemates and myself and creating opportunities. This game is about mistakes and capitalizing on those. For me, it's just about keeping my feet moving and being physical." On a Detroit team that entered the day in the uncharacteristic spot of fourth place in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference (though, in truth, only three points out of fourth), Tootoo finds himself one of only six Detroit forwards who is a plus player. Babcock described Tootoo as a "physical guy on the forecheck" and then threw a compliment in the direction of the Predators and coach Barry Trotz, the only coach Nashville has had since it entered the league in 1998. "He's been excellent for us," Babcock said. "Obviously, (he has) been in the program that they taught, knows how to play and I've known him a long time right back from junior and he's a competitive guy. Seems to be enjoying himself and we're enjoying having him." Babcock was alluding to his final year of coaching the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs in 1999-2000 when Tootoo was playing his first season of major junior in the same league for the Brandon Wheat Kings. In Nashville, they have known Tootoo since he was a fourth-round draft pick in 2001. He left as the organization's all-time leader in penalty minutes with 725. Now, they know what he will bring to a rival a facet of the game in which the Red Wings might have lacked for a few seasons. "Toots is a guy that brings the bang, he brings energy," Trotz said. "He likes the big hits. That's probably something they've missed a little bit. He's more in a Darren McCarty mold where you get that 'Grind Line' physicality. He obviously was popular here. Still is. He'll be popular in Detroit so he brings a lot of that to the table." Amazingly, it's been since 2003-04 since McCarty played more than half of a regular season with Detroit. Kris Draper's last full regular season was 2009-10, which was Kirk Maltby's final season in Detroit. That Grind Line trio was hard to play against. Incidentally, the last time the Red Wings went to the Cup final was 2009, losing to Pittsburgh in seven games. In the years following the dissolution of Detroit's final incarnation of the Grind Line (there were others prior to McCarty, Draper and Maltby), Detroit was able to succeed with finesse and high-end skill over grit. That approach seems to have diminishing returns in the culmination of last season's first-round playoff exit. Tootoo was in no mood to offer insights on that particular topic on Tuesday morning. "Last year's over and done with," he said. "This is a whole new season." Especially with the loss of seven-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement, Detroit is in the midst of changing its identity. Tootoo gives the Wings more crash, more bang, less finesse. "It's great to have Toots as a teammate," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said on Tuesday morning, "but I'm sure it's not so much fun to play against him. You have to be ready for him." That's exactly what the Red Wings want.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Texas A&M Aggies bench Kenny Hill for freshman Kyle Allen

Josh Smith's reaction to Faried's criticism: 'He's a clown'

Magic, Mia Hamm among owners of new MLS franchise

Michael Vick broke teammate’s finger with bullet pass

Wes Welker: 'I feel like the weak link' in Broncos' loaded offense

Greg Hardy will not play this season after trial postponement

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Chip Kelly on not weighing in on injuries: ‘I’m not Dr. Miyagi’

Saints vs Panthers: preview and prediction

Kevin Youkilis retires after 10 seasons in MLB

Ricky Williams says he retired due to poor quarterback play

Judge rejects request to move Aaron Hernandez murder trial

Jason Garrett optimistic that Tony Romo can play Sunday

WATCH: Russell Westbrook gets into it with heckling fan

PHOTO: The best sports-themed Halloween costume this year

WATCH: Jameis Winston forces fumble after throwing INT

Bruce Pearl dressed up as fellow Auburn coach Gus Mazhahn

WATCH: Jimmy Graham head-butts bench

Seahawks host football team from H.S. shocked by shooting

WATCH: Cavs intro in LeBron James’ first game back was wild

Did latest World Series win establish Giants as a dynasty?

Cavaliers give fans instructions on how to do 'Chalk Toss'

Explaining the Penguins loyalty to Marc-Andre Fleury

WATCH: Man obliterates house after Cowboys MNF loss

WATCH: Entire history of Nike in just under three minutes

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Welker feels like 'weak link' in offense

Cavs intro for LeBron was wild

Greg Hardy won't play this season

Michael Jordan rips Obama's golf game

Torii Hunter in radio ad opposing gay marriage

Curt Schilling praises Bumgarner

GALLERY: Best of sports pumpkins

Top storyline for each Week 9 game

Williams' response to criticism

WATCH: Chevy guy totally bombs

Bumgarner pitches Giants to title

Report: Cubs to hire Maddon as manager

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.