Nazem Kadri appears to be struggling; should not be traded

I’m working on something a little more in depth breaking down some of the more important Maple Leafs storylines at the halfway mark, but this keeps popping up in my timeline:

Or something to that effect. Normally I ignore trade rumours, but these are the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the stat sheet is restricted to “goals, assists, points, +/- and minutes played” and nobody stops to think whether they have anything figured out. As a result, you wind up with players like Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur “breaking out” with new teams after “down seasons” in Toronto. 

Nazem Kadri hasn’t really struggled this season.

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Here’s some prevailing wisdom:

If you follow @Hope_Smoke on Twitter, who quotes the radio often, you’ll find one or two people speculating on why Nazem Kadri has failed to “improve” from last season’s high point total.

Look at Kadri’s points numbers and points rates. They’ve dropped a lot from last season to this year:

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  Pts/82 GP Pts/60 MIN EV Pts/60 MIN
2013 Season 75 3.43 3.28
2013-2014 51 2.10 1.53
Change -32% -39% -53%

Of course, those rates were based on a small half-season sample. There was a real danger of people overrating Nazem Kadri based on 48 games worth of good puck luck in the lockout-shortened season. I mentioned several times over the summer that his on-ice shot percentage was extremely high. James Mirtle noted it in the spring in the Globe & Mail. The prevailing wisdom was that Kadri wasn’t close to a point-a-game player, but a 55-60 points player.

There’s nothing wrong with 55-60 points. That makes you an above average centreman.

The real issue is this:

  On-Ice Goals On-Ice Shots On-Ice Sh%
2013 Season 3.86 25.5 15.15%
2013-2014 2.42 30.9 7.81%
Change -37% 22% -48%

The Leafs are taking close to 31 shots on goal every 60 minutes Kadri is playing at 5-on-5. The Leafs are taking 22.7 shots when Kadri isn’t on the ice. Their 2.42 goals per 60 minutes with Kadri on the ice drops to 1.96 when Kadri is off.

That on-ice shooting percentage was expected to fall and it did. Rather than percentages making Kadri look like the superstar he isn’t, Kadri’s more reasonable percentages are showing that he’s still an above-average offensive catalyst.

Now, I’m not one to be telling the Leafs what they should and should not do (except here, here and here) but it seems to me that they may be shopping low on Kadri. Granted, who knows what they’re looking for in return, but it’s not like Toronto is in a position to be ditching centremen from the roster. I like what Peter Holland’s done, but he hasn’t shown he can drive play like Kadri can. We were wondering what people may blame Kadri’s loss of production on back in the summer, and it may be wise to start compiling a list of things.

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Data via Extra Skater and NHL

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  • It amuses me that they argue in the offseason that Kadri wasn’t as good as the shortened season made him appear (for contract negotiations), and now that he’s not appearing as good as the short season made him appear they’re trying to get rid of him.

  • MaxPower417

    They’re not going to trade Kadri unless they get an offer that blows them away rumors are what they are rumors. Also Kadri isn’t struggling his production is down because the Leafs as a team and Kadri also aren’t shooting as much as they were last season,they are playing a lot more in their own end this season than last which explains the shots on goal being down

  • STAN

    It’s a recent dry spell like that Phil Kessel had before last night.

    It wasn’t that long ago this season that Kadri was producing at a 60 point level which is decent and about what you expect for a young, second full season guy. The sophmore slump was avoided.

    Maybe you get 65 points next year, which would put him right on track to be a 70 point guy during the prime of his carreer.

    Kadri’s goals against numbers may have been affected by the poor defensive play of Kessel and Kadri’s overall play may have been hurt by the tougher checking that occurs against the top line.

    Last year, when playing on the third line, Kadri got some pretty easy shifts while still playing with some very good players in Lupul and MacArthur.

    The return of Bozak and a hot first liine may shift the focus away from Kadri and give him easier minutes.

    I still don’t think the lines are set and some chemistry is missing. Let’s give Kadri another month before we panic too much.

    • Back in Black

      Suggesting that his production is down therefore he must be playing worse is oversimplifying.
      Suggesting that his production is down therefore he must be missing his “chemistry” with Frattin and MacArthur would be oversimplifying.

      Suggesting that his drop in production is due to a significant extent to circumstances beyond his control is acknowledging that hockey is a complex sport with a lot of variables and that luck (post-and-out vs. post-and-in) really does play a role. That’s not simple at all.

      • Back in Black

        Suggesting it is mostly due to luck is massively over simplifying and mostly incorrect. Chemistry, his play, difficulty handling first line duty, and possibly not taking the smarter shots definitely has more to do with it.

        • Back in Black

          We could evidently go back and forth all day about what qualifies as oversimplifying. I’m going to stick with desperately attributing causality to correlated events without bothering to look for evidence.

          I think your mistake is thinking that ‘luck’ is a simple explanation.

  • Since Kadri is a “buy low” candidate doesn’t it make sense to sign him up to a long term but low cap JVR kinda a deal. This will help the team off set some of Kessel’s, Clarkson’s and Phaneuf enormous salaries and get better value from the team as a hole. And hopefully this is not make one mistake (long term) to fix another (poor cap situation)

    • Back in Black

      Kadri isn’t a buy low candidate in terms of contract, just in terms of other teams acquiring him. If the rumors are true, the Leafs front office thinks he’s playing worse than he is (or at least, worse than they stupidly projected him to play), so are willing to move him for less than they should. That doesn’t mean Kadri thinks he’s a worse player today than he did at the beginning of the year.

  • STAN

    Clarkson and Kadri for Seguin.

    Seguin has 20 goals, 39 points and is PLUS 12 in 37 games, markedly better than Kessel 20 goals, 37 points in 41 games and a zero +/-.

    Just pointing that out.

    Oh, and Seguin is still getting used to a new team and new teammates.

    • Back in Black

      Is that a swipe at the bad Kessel for Seguin and Hamilton swap, or do you actually believe the Stars would trade one of the most dynamic young players in the league for an above average centerman and a huge cap hit?