Nazem Kadri Sent Down To AHL

December 29th, 2010 No Comments

In a move that can hardly be called unexpected, the Toronto Maple Leafs have chosen to send Rookie forward Nazem Kadri down to the American Hockey League where he is expected to continue to develop his game with the Toronto Marlies.

Through 17 games Kadri registered six assists, but he struggled to grasp the defensive side of the game, something that keeps many young forwards out of the NHL.

Originally selected seventh overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Kadri (who struggled at the rookie tournament) made a strong case to make the big club in training camp (especially in the later games), only to find himself sent to the AHL for seasoning.

The lingering issue was Kadri’s lack of defensive play and his penchant for turning over the puck in the neutral zone—ok, maybe in all zones!

After a decent start to his AHL season in which he scored five goals and nine assists in 14 games with the Marlies, Kadri was called up to the big club.

At the time of his promotion the Maple Leafs were marred in one of their worst slumps in recent memory.

To be honest, the move screamed of desperation on the part of Brian Burke and Company, but I suppose he had to try something, anything to get his slumping club going.

Kadri played strong in his first game, making a couple of nifty plays and creating a number of scoring chances, but his game quickly fell off, causing head coach Ron Wilson to move Kadri from the top two lines down to the third, and so on.

Eventually Kadri saw his time reduced to a few minutes of five-on-five action, followed by a few shifts on the power play, where, try as he might, Kadri was still ineffective.

Kadri also found himself moving from centre to the wing and back again. In the end, as much I as we may not agree with all the movement, you cannot say Wilson didn’t give the kid a chance.

Another one of Kadri’s weak spots was his inability to win faceoffs, where he owed a 37.7% success rate through those 17 games. Kadri was often overpowered in the circle or just plain beaten to the puck, he will need to work on both aspects in the AHL.

Sending Kadri down to the AHL to develop is not the end of the world. Numerous top prospects have needed to learn the defensive side of the game and add some much needed muscle to their frames in order to compete at the NHL level.

Given time, it appears as if Kadri will evolve into a solid forward for the Maple Leafs, unfortunately, for Kadri, that time is not now.

Common sense says sophomore forward Tyler Bozak will be given another shot as the teams first line centre—a gamble that has not paid dividends this season.

Bozak has amassed a total of 12 points in 35 games. Three of his four goals have come on the power play, which is to say his five-on-five offense has been non-existent.

Bozak does excel in the faceoff circle (51.2% success rate), but that skill is hardly enough to deem him a number one centre, is it?

For Burke, adding a true number one centre looks bleak at best—something he thought he had in Bozak or Kadri.

Clearly the lack of talent down the middle has been a sore spot for the Maple Leafs, and until it gets better, the results, or lack thereof, will likely remain the same.

Another option for Burke would be to promote Mikhail Grabovski to the first line, but given the chemistry Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur have had on the second line, that move may do more harm than good.

Wether Burke adds a centre via trade, free agency or promotes another centre from within remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the Maple Leafs need for a centre has never been more clear—Kadri was just muddying the waters.

Until next time,

Peace!

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