Jordin Tootoo does not deserve to be in the New Jersey Devils’ lineup in 2015-2016

Jordin Tootoo

always has a good attitude and puts in great effort. Is that enough to make the team? Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Jordin Tootoo may just need to set the world on fire to prove he deserves a spot in the New Jersey Devils’ 2015-2016 opening night lineup. Even with his freshly signed one-year pact with the Devils, Tootoo is no safe bet to make this year’s roster. Former general manager Lou Lamoriello felt Tootoo earned his pre-free agency re-signing, but it remains to be seen if new general manager Ray Shero feels the same.

Thus far, Shero has given zero indication that Tootoo is going to be in the Devils’ plans for 2015-2016. First, he signed right wing/center Sergey Kalinin. Then, he traded away two draft picks for another right wing in Kyle Palmieri. Later on, when faced with the decision to re-sign right wing Steve Bernier, Shero stood pat, stating that Kalinin, Palmieri, and (natural left wing) Stefan Matteau would be better suited for that spot. Also in the mix are Stephen Gionta, Paul Thompson, and Jim O’Brien, who have all spent significant time at right wing. Even though Shero has listed plenty of players who could take over at right wing, the reality, as CJ Turtoro pointed out at In Lou We Trust, is that Tootoo remains one of the team’s two natural right wings (with Palmieri).

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Is Shero moving on from Tootoo or is he still unaware of Tootoo’s talents that earned him his new contract? Tootoo’s 10 goals in 2014-2015 put him in seventh place among Devils goal-scorers; however, two-thirds of those points came from his time on the first line, where he played alongside Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri. That makes last season’s performance far less impressive, especially since he will not be playing in that same role.

In fairness, some of Tootoo’s value comes from his fighting ability. Tootoo took part in eight of New Jersey’s 22 fights last season, which ranks thirteenth in the NHL. Of the eleven forwards that have fought more than Tootoo, seven scored more points per game. Keep in mind that enforcers generally see fourth-line minutes, while Tootoo most commonly skated with the Devils’ top line.

Onto Tootoo’s competition, it is safe to assume that Cammalleri, Zajac, Palmieri, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias, Jacob Josefson, Ryane Clowe (should he play again), Dainius Zubrus, and Tuomo Ruutu all make the 2015-2016 roster, leaving three openings. Of the players with NHL experience, Tootoo will need to beat out Jim O’Brien and Stephen Gionta, while also going up against recent signee Sergey Kalinin and minor league call-ups Paul Thompson, Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau, among others.

Stefan Matteau’s  potential move to right wing may be the nail in the coffin for Tootoo’s roster chances. Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

As Matteau would need to clear waivers to return to the Albany Devils, it is likely that he winds up with a main roster spot. After that, the situation becomes a bit hazier; however, it is worth noting that Kalinin, Thompson, and O’Brien were all signees under Shero while Tootoo is coming over from a previous regime.

It was Tootoo’s impressive effort last preseason that ultimately won him a roster spot. At the time, he was without a contract and knew that he did not have much interest from other teams. New Jersey was essentially his last chance to prove his worth to the rest of the league. Without that same resiliency in 2015, Tootoo could find himself on waivers and perhaps out of the NHL altogether.