So five games into Nazem Kadri’s latest audition with the Leafs, the slickly talented winger looks like he’ll finally stick with the big club.
It’s been a bumpy ride of promotions and demotions since being drafted 7th in 2009 but former critics are coming around saying this time he looks different. NHL ready.
He’s showing less of the flash that routinely got him into the doghouse with the coach and has more of complete game. Plus, he’s still got that scoring touch with a couple of beauty goals in the 15 days since being recalled from the Marlies.
Kadri has notched 3 goals and five points in this fortnight with a +5 rating. Not only that, his shooting/goals percentage is at 20% – higher than Leaf leaders Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul at 15.5 and 15.7 per cent respectively. Of course, that number will decline as Kadri gets more playing time and shots. But overall, his re-debut has been impressive and looks as if he’s finally growing into the status accorded to a high first-rounder.
Nearly more than any other player in the Burke era, Kadri has been a lightning rod for criticism or praise. He seems to have the knack for setting off the chatter among fans and media, sometimes by what he says, other times with his play.
The knocks on Kadri are well documented: Weak on the puck, not strong enough, too many turnovers, questionable decisions – made all the more annoying due to Kadri’s misplaced self-confidence. That combination has added up to being in Wilson’s doghouse in previous stints — and you just don’t want to go there with Uncle Grumpy.
There seems to be a nearly a palpable dislike on the part of Wilson for Kadri. Maybe because he’s a top-10 pick and he’s giving him some particularly tough love. Wilson plays the crusty, aloof University professor to Marlies’ coach Dallas Eakins’ kinder high school teacher. Expectations in the NHL are high and there’s little room for error. Stray too far from the this particular coach’s philosophy and he’ll find himself right back in the minors — perhaps for good as far as this franchise goes.
There’s also speculation Burke has recalled him to showcase him for a possible future trade. The latest rumours have the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf on the trading block. And we all know the connections Brian Burke has with Anaheim (still can’t believe how he unloaded Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala that brought J.S. Giguerre here.)
Burke would dearly love to get his mitts on Getzlaf — that first line hulking, talented centre the Leafs have been coveting ever since Mats Sundin left town. No doubt Kadri’s name would come up – just depends on who else would be in such a package.
This is very much looking like Kadri’s sink-or-swim moment and here’s hoping he gets a good, long chance at finding a role with the team.
Though just 21 with a good NHL career likely ahead of him, Kadri definitely has a contribution to make. I have an uneasy sense that it won’t be with the Maple Leafs.