As a highly touted forward, when you play seventeen consecutive NHL games without scoring a single goal, something’s gotta give. In a related story, Nazem Kadri has been returned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. His time with the big club has been, to completely understate it, disappointing. But this hiccup in his career has little to do with Kadri’s actual play. As it is with every single player who skates in an NHL game, it’s about the person. His temperament. His character and his effort. And his perceived ability (or dwindling lack thereof) to become a top-line NHLer.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have one responsibility when it comes to Nazem Kadri’s NHL career. Their job is to decide if he will ply his trade at Air Canada Centre, or with some other NHL team. It is not the Leafs’ job to make him a better player. It is not their job to pull him up by the bootstraps and get his NHL career on track. Despite what Brian Burke says in his TV ads for the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs are not in the player development business.
They are in the player assessment business. The players are in the player development business. It’s Nazem Kadri’s job to make Nazem Kadri a better player. Only he knows the kind of player he will be. Only Kadri knows where his career is going. He determines the path. The Leafs, or Marlies, do not.
What I get very tired of is fans slagging the Leafs and Burke for bringing him up…sending him down…not playing him enough…playing him too much. Blah, blah, blah. Whether or not Kadri deserved to be drafted as high as 7th overall in 2009 (he did not), he will decide how much he plays. His biggest obstacle to success is himself.
I have no problems with the way the Leafs have dealt with Kadri. Their job is to assess his current and future ability to play with their hockey club. How they make that assessment is completely up to them. Frankly, I can learn a hell of a lot more about a guy’s character by putting him in a tough situation (playing in the NHL) than I can by watching him be a point-a-game guy in an inferior league. Playing in the AHL won’t build Kadri’s confidence. Kadri’s character will build its own esteem. Tells me all I need to know about a guy.
In his final year of junior hockey, Kadri racked up 105 points in just 56 games with Dale Hunter’s ornery London Knights. He did that by being a complete little pain-in-the-ass on the ice. Even that component of his game has disappeared.
Time to get your s**t together, Nazem. You’re twenty years old. The days of coasting through hockey games and racking up a couple of points are long over. If you want to become a career NHLer, you need to teach yourself how to achieve it.