The Kadri Question
Clearly, the Leafs are trying to light a fire under Nazem Kadri.
Nothing wrong with that.
If the kid's not ready, he's not ready, and that doesn't mean he's not going to be ready. That he might not be at the stage today where he's ready to step into the NHL and be a front line centre isn't a reflection of his ability or desire. It might be a reflection of his maturity and ability to understand what it takes to be an NHLer, and that's going to come with age.
Moreover, if he starts the season with the AHL Marlies, or even finishes it with them, that's no great insult. Under Dallas Eakins, he'd play as a No. 1 centre, play in all situations, and continue to grow into the bigger body he's been asked to develop.
All this said, the Leafs are rather mystified with the former No. 1 pick these days, both in the quality of his play and what they perceive to be his attitude. Not that it's bad, just that Kadri seems to give off the vibe that he's already in the bigs and is a veteran who just needs to have his game in order by the Oct. 7th.
It's the fight against entitlement Brian Burke and Ron Wilson believe they've been fighting, and partiy its because top prospects are annointed status in Toronto by the media before they earn it. Luke Schenn was heralded as a can't miss stud because he made the Leafs as an 18-year-old, and now, in his third year, he's hoping to get good minutes as a fifth or sixth D-man, with stardom a long way off yet.
The entitlement issue is one reason why the Marlies can be such a useful tool for the Leafs, one that was used successfully last season with Carl Gunnarson, Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg.
Nothing wrong with making these guys understand there's a road to travel to the big leagues, and it won't always come with room service.
All this said, Kadri has three or four games over the next week to demonstrate that he has received the message from Burke and Wilson loud and clear. There's still a role there for him. If the Leafs were to draw it up, they'd probably like to go with Bozak, Kadri, Grabovski and Hanson down the middle. But Kadri has to earn the spot, or it may go by default to John Mitchell. Or, the Leafs may have to go out and find a body, which will make the task of getting to the NHL a little tougher for Kadri.
So his chance is here. Now. Time for lift-off, son.