With Leafs nation all abuzz with the pending preseason cuts and who will and won’t make the club out training camp I wanted to take this time to discuss Nazem Kadri again and basically to say, give the kid a break. I am not going to feel sorry for him (or any pro athlete) as this is the life they chose and it is filled with amazing perks, monetary compensation and unfortunately in Toronto, a bit of additional pressure for a city starving for a hockey winner but I also feel it is time for a little perspective.
We have to face facts that while we wish he was ready for big league action and our supposed 2nd line centre but reality is Nazem Kadri is still a kid, literally. Kadri was raised in a big Arabic household in a tight family oriented environment and as a male being raised in such a situation (coupled with the fact he was a minor hockey star at a young age) he was likely treated like a king from birth all the way through until now. Kadri is more of a kid that a lot of ‘kids’ his age, and I feel he will just take a bit longer to develop both mentally and physically, but the gifts and sheer talent he has been bestowed by the hockey gods are undeniably great.
Like a lot of kids who don’t leave the nest prior to turning 20 years old I doubt Nazem has experienced much in the way of real life experience or hardship and is still very much reliant on his parents for support, both emotionally and mentally. Kadri is still a kid adjusting to a very different (and hectic) lifestyle and is also likely away from home for the first time in his life. He just added approximately 15 lbs of muscle to a very slight frame and likely put his body through an unaccustomed workout regimen that has left him looking slightly slower and less explosive.
If Nazem Kadri were a baseball player (say Kyle Drabek) he would barely be above ‘A’ ball at this point in his career and there would be zero expectations for an immediate and drastic impact in his first year out of junior hockey. Tyler Bozak was a rookie for the Leafs in 2009/10 (at the age of 24) and he showed a lot of improvement during the course of the season last year but there were still some things lacking overall from his game early in the year, and he has four years on Nazem, think about that. Kadri has most of the necessary ingredients to be a solid professional, just needs the time for them to properly simmer and cook.
Only the rarest of rare talents can step out of junior hockey as a boy and play a big time role in a man’s game, although I think we erred when Luke Schenn was not sent back to junior after being drafted 7th overall by the Leafs in 2008, Schenn unlike Kadri was basically a boy in a man’s body. For every Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos there are countless others that are just not ready to step immediately into the world of professional hockey at the NHL level.
Brian Burke will bring Nazem Kadri into his office and explain to him that the Maple Leafs are happy with his progress thus far, he is coming off an exemplary junior career and he should try his hardest to ignore the harsh media onslaught and go to the AHL with his head held high. Work on improving the weakest facets of his game and get accustomed to playing against men and make the necessary adjustments as needed. We’ll continue to monitor you closely and you are only a step or two away from returning to the big club but don’t worry about things you can’t control, just focus on playing hockey, a game you love.
Folks, Nazem Kadri is a fine young prospect I am hopeful that a bright and promising future lay ahead as a #2 playmaking/sparkplug centre but as Axl Rose said (or sang), what we all need right now is “just a little patience”.
BRENT MAKING PLAY FOR 3RD LINE CHECKING ROLE
Tim Brent has made noise in training camp for the Leafs in 2010 and the 26 year old is apparently leading the race for the wide open 3rd line checking line centre role. Brent signed with the Leafs in 2009 and played 33 games for the Toronto Marlies (13 goals, 15 assists in 33 games) and is known as a responsible defensive centre that can win some draws and chip in on the penalty kill.
A career minor leaguer since 2008/09 spanning 97 games Brent (6’0”, 200 lbs) has managed 33 goals and 57 assists, scoring at a 0.92 point per game clip. He likely won’t be a big time scorer in the NHL but a career minor leaguer will absolutely work his tail off each and every night and it is possible that John Mitchell’s (the man who is most likely to be affected) Maple Leafs career is closer to coming to an abrupt end.
Mitchell has shown some promise but seems to lack ‘jam’ or the extra gear that would allow him to be a consistent and productive pro in the NHL. It is possible he is one of the youngsters than Brian Burke and Ron Wilson refer to when they discuss the perceived ‘entitlement’ players sometimes feel because they play in a large market with constant attention from the media 24/7.
KEEP IT TO YOURSELF KRIS!
Among growing, disgusting and annoying trends, players who bite, chew and play with their mouthguards obsessively is something I could just as well go without! I thought when Marco Belinelli (Raptors former swingman) was sent packing we wouldn’t have to endure a high profile player with his mouthguard on display all game, until Kris Versteeg came to town.
Projected opening night line-up: