Nazem Kadri: Should he stay or should he go?
There was a time when Leafs prospects were rushed into the NHL the way celebrities are rushed into cordoned-off VIP rooms. Ready? Not ready? It really didn't matter. If you had promise, the team's desperate modus operandi was simple: Catapult you into the big league, hope for the best and then whistle nervously when you cracked like a walnut under pressure.
But things have changed.
For the first time in a long time, the Leafs have depth. So while the subtext in last night’s 3-2 win over the Flyers was the future of Nazem Kadri, the fact we're even wondering if he should stay or go is very good news indeed.
Just ask Allan Bester or Luke Richardson.
When Brian Burke was in Anaheim, the Ducks and their AHL affiliate at the time, the Portland Pirates, combined to play in 14 playoff series, more than any other organization. As Burke told me: "You have to have pressure from below. The guys have to be nervous about what's coming."
It doesn’t hurt that young players want to play in Toronto, something that wasn't always the case (just ask Craig Simpson).
Francois Allaire, the Leafs goaltending consultant, has helped guys like Patrick Roy and Jean-Sébastien Giguère backstop their way to Stanley Cup victories. Allaire's presence within the Leafs organization is important. Young goalies like Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens signed with Toronto because they wanted to work with Francois.
As for Kadri, he scored in the shootout last night with a dazzling move, which was almost identical to this goal from 2009 preseason. He worked hard all summer. He gained weight. He focused on his defensive game. He did everything coaches and management asked.
But as Ron Wilson observed last night: "I don't think he's played up to the way he did last season."
There's still time for Kadri to earn a spot in the lineup before the season starts next month. But there’s no rush. And that's something every Leafs fan should be happy to hear.
PHOTO: DAVE CHIDLEY/CANADIAN PRESS