Fate is one of the biggest factors in our lives. That said, I’m not a big fan of “what ifs.” Whatever happens, happens. Frankly, we can only take one path. Life just leads us to believe there is more than one trail available. So cruel. And that’s what got me thinking about Darryl Boyce and Nazem Kadri.
Darryl Boyce is a 26-year old Prince Edward Islander. Not a kid, by any stretch. He played four full years of major junior hockey, then parlayed that into an education at the University of New Brunswick. He was never drafted by an NHL team. His minor pro career, with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, has been fraught with injury. He played one lonely NHL game in his first pro season. He is no longer, if he ever was, a prospect. He’s a roster-filler. That’s all.
Nazem Kadri is a 20-year old, London, Ontario native. Just a kid. He played four full years of major junior hockey, and was drafted seventh overall by the Leafs in 2009. He played one NHL game in his final year of junior. He is the biggest prospect the Leafs have.
And here’s where the “what if” comes in. What if, when Kadri was called up this season, he was him – instead of Boyce – who recorded an assist in his first game, then scored a goal in his second? How would that have influenced the next fifteen NHL games Kadri played? Because, the way it was, Kadri struggled through his entire 17 contests with the Leafs before, unceremoniously, being punted back to the Marlies. What if he had scored off the bat? And why did Boyce manage to?
Here’s what I know about Darryl Boyce. I watched him play, in person, over a hundred games with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL (before they moved to dreary Mississauga). I never once, not one time, saw him dog a shift or not bust his a** on the ice. Never. He was a complete pain in the opposition’s keester. Boyce accrued over 450 PIMs in his junior career. He was unloved by fans on the road.
I have a feeling those are some of the reasons Boyce has already had a lot more luck in his Leafs’ stint this season than Kadri did. Oh, Kadri started with great fanfare against the Canucks on November 13th. He played over 18 minutes and skated miles. He had three assists in his first three games. But never that elusive goal. And that’s when he started to fade.
By the end of his 17 games, Kadri’s minutes had dropped dramatically, and he’d been a healthy scratch three times. What if he’d scored early? How would that have affected his confidence? And, just as importantly, how would that have affected how management and the fans saw him and his game? And how many more would he have pumped in once that first one hit the back of the net? We’ll never know.
But the early success can’t be hurting Darryl Boyce. Maybe those six extra years of life gave him a leg up on Kadri. Maybe Boyce will quickly tail off. Maybe not.
Either way, fate sure has a strange way of affecting young lives and careers, doesn’t it?