Sheltering Nazem Kadri

Quick thought today, ranging from some discussion about my idea to shift Mikhail Grabovski to the #1C spot and plug young Nazem Kadri into the #2 hole with Clarke MacArthur and James van Riemsdyk. Basically the thought was:

  1. Grabovski can handle heavy minutes on the second line, so don’t change that
  2. Get Kadri onto the top line and protect those minutes

Now, I don’t think that Kadri can be totally protected with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Even if you started them exclusively in the offensive zone, you’re still keeping a young, raw asset out against Zdeno Chara all the time.

Relating this to an experience I had with the Vancouver Canucks last season, Canucks fans were up in arms when the talented Cody Hodgson wasn’t getting the appropriate levels of ice-time, or so they thought, during a dominant stretch in January. I looked more closely at Hodgson’s minutes and found that he was performing the strongest when kept between 11 and 14 minutes, which is more traditionally what a third liner will get in the NHL.

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How to relate this to Kadri, well, I don’t think he’s played enough games to give us a particularly detailed look at how he fares in his splits. I checked them and they aren’t clean, part of the problem being that the powerplay and even strength time hasn’t been evened-out yet.

This table sorts out the Leafs’ centremen’s average time on ice last season and compares it to their TOIQualComp, or the average time on ice the defencemen they played against got. The idea is that defencemen that play the most are probably the best. As you can see, it matches up well with overall time on ice:

  TOI/Game Opp D TOI
Bozak 18:50 20.23
Grabovski 17:36 19.53
Connolly 17:00 19.50
Steckel 12:49 18.92

Sheltering a player takes more than just putting him in offensive situations. You want to keep Kadri’s time on ice well below 17 if you want him to see success at a young age in the NHL. He’s not a pure goal scorer, but his puck-possession numbers have been fine since joining the league and he can be molded into a Grabovski-lite. It just takes time.

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But you don’t want to amp up the competition he plays against too quickly. While I think it’s easy to suggest that that’s how you can shelter Kadri, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

I’ve sold myself on the idea that Kadri lining up between MacArthur and van Riemsdyk would actually be a pretty good top six group at both ends of the rink and probably won’t deviate from the thought until expressly proven wrong by either a better combination of forwards put together by Randy Carlyle, or if my idea is attempted and completely falls apart.

If that happens, I’ll buy everybody who comments on this post a beer, but I doubt it.

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  • Danny Gray

    What do you think the actual chances of that line being put together are? I think CC’s line ideas are excellent, but for some reason coaches never seem to pick up on what seems like the best idea. The question is whether “we” know something they don’t or whether they know something we don’t.

  • RexLibris

    Which leads us back to the Bozak conundrum. He’s no 3C.. if he can’t play on your top 6 i’ don’t think there’s a spot for him.

    Something’s up here with this gluttany of C’s – may have something to do with the avalanche…

    Just a hunch…

    I’ll take a steamwhistle…

  • Jack Yakic

    Love the idea and have been hoping that this is what will happen in the fall (or whenever). I like Bozak, nice guy, evidence of talent. But not enough to be a top 6 forward on a contender. We likely should have been grooming him for the third line all along, but with the addition of McClement, that seems unlikely.

    Mill St. Organic for me.

  • Gus Katsaros

    Only wrench in the works is that the Leafs have focused their development plans for Kadri as a winger .. Centers have distinct responsiblities that Kadri struggles to maintain and that alone may be enough to keep him on the wing.

  • Gus Katsaros

    Kadri’s going to need to be a lot tougher to play against to get any love from carlye. I want to see cam’s suggestion pan out but I don’t see it happening under randy’s watch.

  • Gus Katsaros

    I think Bozak should be the 2nd line center. good FW%, decent defensively and passes. With Mac and JVR, he has 2 options to pass to who both go to the net and he can get some cheap goals himself. The kid has the potential to do 20G, 55P and it’s hard to argue with that sort of production from a #2 C.
    I personally think Kadri should be 3rd line with Kules (good both ways and will help Kadri in the offensive zone) and McClement (good D) and that will allow kadri to be creative but also cover up some of his poor D as he learns the NHL game