Posts Tagged ‘Nazem Kadri Leafs 2010’

Give Kadri time to develop, he'll be just fine.

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:

Versteeg-Bozak-Kessel

Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur

Sjostrom-Brent-Armstrong

Brown-Hanson-Orr

Phaneuf-Beauchemin

Kaberle-Komisarek

Schenn-Gunnarsson

Giguere/Gustavsson

So I took in the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Chicago Blackhawks rookie squad tournament game tonight and I am going to make a bold prediction, there wasn’t one single Maple Leafs player that is a first line forward or top two defensemen playing tonight, Nazem Kadri included.  Don’t get me wrong, Kadri is a fine hockey player and can add a lot to a team but I have never been that sold on him as a first line centre going forward and I think at best he is a poor man’s Scott Gomez, while at worst he could be run out of town by the brutal Toronto media.

Kadri looked awful, he couldn’t win a faceoff, he went 1 on 3, he made bad passes and he looked anything but a promising dynamic offensive player.  Now, it was only one game, and a rookie squad tournament game at that, but Kadri did not look good tonight and I think the jury is out on him league wide.  What type of player can a smallish forward truly become in the NHL without the overall pedigree and skill set of say a Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise or Taylor Hall, players who have absolutely dominated at every level of hockey.

The night started at a local pub outside the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario – a great city and a great venue.  I had noticed a large family sitting at a table near my wife and I while we were having a few drinks and I kept saying to her that the man (father) at the table looked familiar, when he left it hit me, Nazem Kadri’s father and family, pretty cool.  When we got to the JLC who was sitting in the box basically right beside us?  Brian Burke, Ron Wilson and the Maple Leafs brass – taking in the tournament and scouting out some future Maple Leafs Marlies prospects.  I doubt they were too impressed and during the intermission there packed box was intently watching some college football (American colleges of course).

The Leafs were soundly outplayed by the Blackhawks rookie squad and were it not for absolutely shabby goaltending from the Hawks tender the score would have been quite different in my opinion.  Leafs goaltender (and future Marlies goalie) Jussi Rynnas looked shaky in the first period but settled down and overall played a pretty solid game.  Other players who made a strong impression in my eyes were forwards Greg McKegg (62nd overall pick in the latest draft), Bradley Ross (43rd overall) as well as defensemen Jesse Blacker and hulking European Korbinian Holzer who never looked out of place and played a strong two-game game.

Brayden Irwin hardly lost a faceoff and played a solid two-way game but the Leafs player I was most impressed with was easily Norwegian forward Sondre Olden.  Olden, drafted 79th overall in 2010 showed unbelievable speed and skill and was easily the best Leafs forward all night with his consistent effort and drive in all situations on the ice.  Invisible or ineffective were Jerry D’Amigo (awful passing and turnovers, very ineffective) and the aformentioned Nazem Kadri while Marcel Mueller looked to be a man playing against boys as he flashed great strength, size and puck control on more than a few occasions, definitely promising.

As I looked at the Leafs press box and saw Brian Burke (who killed at least 4 coffees) I couldn’t help but think that he wished Tyler Seguin was in camp and trying to impress the Leafs brass as opposed to this relatively lacklustre group that is likely filled with future Marlies and maybe less than a handful of future Leafs (role) players.  I know we all love Phil Kessel but seeing what rookies are currently in the system is a bit depressing and if they were ranked league wide the Leafs would definitely be in the bottom half (or quarter) of the league in terms of young talent in the pipeline, without a doubt.

Luckily our major league roster is actually somewhat filled with solid talent (25 years and younger) because the stream of talent from our drafts and minor league system looks pretty bare and with no first round picks coming from last draft or the upcoming draft it isn’t likely to improve much from here.  Please don’t take this as a doom and gloom piece, we are finally building up some much needed depth and there is definitely talent within our system, but it is obviously lacking (according to most respected league sources) in any top end dynamic talent outside of hopefully Nazem Kadri, but Kadri is undersized and unproven and I hope in six months I am eating my words but for now I remain sceptical.