So you could look at this in at least two ways.
Perhaps Nazem Kadri showed he's not only willing to be challenged, but can respond by playing better.
Or perhaps Brian Burke and Ron Wilson knew exactly what they were doing when they publicly criticized the 19-year-old centre.
While it may, by next week, mean nothing, Kadri certainly showed some maturity Wednesday night in Ottawa with a two-goal, one assist program. He didn't whine, he didn't complain, he didn't sulk. He played a good hockey game, albeit in an NHL exhibition, that at the very least means that if he starts the season with the AHL Marlies he went down with a bang.
The last few days, of course, have been a vivid illustration of the fact that there's nothing in hockey quite like being a first round pick of the Leafs.
Other teams send their first rounders to the minors, or juniors, and not a word is said. Nobody in Montreal is calling Jarred Tinordi a failure. In Vancouver, they'd have liked to have seen Jordan Schroeder make the big club, but that's a pretty good team. Ottawa's Jared Cowan doesn't look ready for NHL action, and he was taken two places after Kadri in the '09 draft. The No. 11 pick, Ryan Ellis, is already back in junior. Brayden Schenn, the fifth pick that year, may or may not make the L.A. Kings.
The Kadri story, on the other hand, was a soap opera at Leaf camp last year, and a bigger one this year. Last year, many were arguing he deserved to be in the NHL. This year, others have been suggesting he's just another blown pick by the Leafs. Lacking in both viewpoints is a modicum of perspective.
Players arrive and develop at different speeds. Some struggle, then take off. Some take off, then struggle. Anybody care to remember Lanny McDonald's 14-goal effort as a Leaf rookie more than a quarter-century ago? And he turned out okay.
After his strong effort against the Sens, of course, there will be those who say this proves he should crack the Leaf roster. Well, maybe that's true, and certainly he's done more in one game than John Mitchell has accomplished the entire pre-season.
But don't be shocked if Kadri still starts in the minors. The Burke administration, you see, doesn't look at sending a young player to the minors as insulting him. More to the point, regardless of this one game, there is still nothing wrong with Kadri proving himself in the AHL, then moving on to the NHL.
Then again, maybe the Leafs will keep him. Maybe, knowing their supposedly deep and talented defence and the goaltending tandem of J.S. Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson is likely going to average three goals against a night, the Leaf braintrust will figure they need all the offence they can get.
Kadri made his case Wednesday night. But he didn't sew up a spot. Then again, he may not yet be done making his case.