September 28 2012 03:58PM
Nazem Kadri drinking pure corn syrup. Image via Peter J. Thompson/National Post
The original comments that we heard about Nazem Kadri having "unacceptable" levels of fitness from Toronto Marlies' head coach Dallas Eakins on the first day of training camp may have been a bit overblown.
We'll follow up to our morning post with reactions to the news throughout the hockey blogosphere and mainstream sports media, which also includes a bizarre conspiracy theory…
Starting off with the comments, here are Dallas Eakins' words in full about Nazem Kadri.
"Yeah, well, you gotta watch him on the skating test because Naz ended up in a group with [Nicholas] Deschamps who is an extremely quick skater, Jerry [d'Amigo] is strong, Greg Scott is strong, so, you know, comparing Naz to those guys and then with the other groups you know, he's probably average right now on the skating test, he's yet to do the Wingate, he's yet to do the chin-ups, average right now skating-wise.
"You know the one thing we want, and it's hard with young guys, you really got to pound it through their head, the one thing Naz has to improve is his eating habits. His body fat today was probably in the bottom three to five guys at our whole camp. And that's unacceptable. That's the easiest part of coming through to camp is eating correctly and training correctly, so I think he's probably improved a little bit on the ice, his diet's not where it should be and we'll look at his strength a little bit later."
It doesn't appear that Dallas Eakins is throwing him under the bus, or sending Kadri home because he had too many donuts in the summer. This is a rare case because you're dealing with 34 guys in their physical peaks, all of whom underwent strict offseason training programs.
Kadri said it as well: "You know right now they're just looking at which guys prepared themselves, and obviously all the fellas did."
Nazem goes to Gary Roberts' camp
Still, for Eakins to question Kadri's diet is something. Gary Roberts has an absolutely wild nutrition program that involves a lot of organic foods and seeds. Eakins' comments are puzzling.
Greg Brady of the Fan 590 offered up this theory:
Roberts made enemy of Burke by questioning conditioning & fitness of Leafs after Ron Wilson's 1st yr. It's so obvious what's going on here.— Greg Brady (@bradyfan590) September 28, 2012
If James Reimer or Tyler Bozak reported to camp TWENTY pounds overweight, u think Carlyle would EVER point it out. Not. A. Chance.— Greg Brady (@bradyfan590) September 28, 2012
In other words, the worst scheme since Steven Soderbergh thought Ocean's Twelve would win any Acadamy Awards.
Over at Pension Plan Puppets, Julian speculated as to why the Leafs would seemingly throw Kadri under the bus like this:
What I wonder is whether Kadri improved over last year's testing results or whether the rest of the team's results are good relative to an AHL average. Regardless, it is strange that the Leafs constantly feel the need to go public with criticism of Kadri.
But in the end, it sounds like the media may take more issue with the "unacceptable" soundbite over the actual context of Kadri's fitness:
With regard to his relationship with the team, players have overcome worse than constant reminders in the press from management that they should get in better shape. The team is free to approach their motivational efforts in the manner that they see fit but it certainly feels like despite Kadri's best efforts they are hard to please. Of course, it's hard to measure how hard Kadri has worked without having followed him all summer.
An admittedly "picky eater" Kadri spoke of adjustments to his diet in concert with Roberts, adding unfavourable foods such as squash, quinoa rice and spinach. "There was a huge adjustment," he said. "That's why I did drop [the body fat] a little bit. Maybe I could've dropped it a little more, but for the most part I'm happy with where I am, I'm happy with how I feel on the ice, I'm happy with my conditioning and my endurance. My lower-body feels strong and I honestly I just can't wait to translate that to a game-form."
"I'm still a young guy," he concluded. "I'm slowly learning how to be a pro and what types of food to put into my body, but it's not like you're all going to get it in a couple months, you're going to start to figure it out, you'll gradually get the hang of it as you go."
I have to ask why Kadri feels the need to accept Eakins' words without a hint of criticism. If he's been working out all summer and is in fine form, he should say he is, and that Eakins can go stuff it.
This headline from the Post says it all: "No benefit for Marlies to label Nazem Kadri as fat and slow". This is from Michael Traikos:
But one question: why make this public? Why not tell Kadri that he needs get in better shape and become faster. Why embarrass him?
As a top-10 draft pick, Kadri has been living the past three years under the microscope. It has not been an easy development. Former Leafs head coach Ron Wilson told reporters more than once that Kadri was too skinny to compete in the NHL, that he did not backcheck enough, and turned the puck over far too many times to be relied upon in a full-time role.
For what it is worth, Kadri has taken the criticism like a man. He did not openly pout, just vowed to get better and eventually became a point per game player in the minors.