Kadri decision best for all

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

One can safely say the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't made a lot of great decisions in the last 20 years or so.

But they made the right one when they sent Nazem Kadri back to his Ontario Hockey League team, the London Knights.

Kadri, the Leafs' first pick and No. 7 overall in the National Hockey League draft, turned some heads in training camp. It's safe to say he was more advanced and far readier to play in the NHL than many believed.

Kadri proved that if he continues to develop not only his skill but also his desire to play in the NHL, he'll be a regular in a Leaf uniform perhaps as early as next year.

It must have been tempting for the Leafs to keep the young forward. While he may not have been completely ready, his skills were evident and as good as many on the Leafs roster. He's a personable young guy, easy to deal with. He will be popular with the NHL media.

The Leafs could have given Kadri the Sam Gagner treatment.

The Edmonton Oilers kept that former Knight after he had a phenomenal training camp. As an offensive specialist, they loved his ability in the shootout and his flashy skills. But as the season dragged on, Gagner received reduced ice time and found less success.

How much better would it have been for Gagner to play another year of junior, log 30 minutes a game, play another world junior tournament and then make the jump?

He probably would have been a lot better.

The Leafs resisted the urge to do the same thing with Kadri.

"They were giving me hints right from the start that I would be coming back," Kadri said. "I'm disappointed because (Toronto) is where I wanted to play. But I think they made the right decision. I'm looking forward to coming back and playing for the Knights."

Kadri was still in Toronto as of mid-afternoon yesterday and didn't get to London until later in the day.

That doesn't mean he dragged his feet about coming back.

One of the biggest concerns with any player that's close to making a pro club and then has to come back is frame of mind. If it isn't right, it won't help the player or the team.

"I think I can put it behind me right away and regain my focus about coming back to London and worrying about that team," Kadri said. "My Toronto Maple Leaf dreams are over this year, but not over next year.

"Obviously, this is not what I wanted to happen but it's not that big a deal that I'm coming back. We're going to have a solid team here."

The Leafs were clear about what they expect from Kadri: score a bunch of points, play a bunch of games and get a bunch of experience.

"Hopefully, I'll get 100 points; that would be a good year for me," he said. "I want to make the world junior team, that's one of the reasons they sent me back. They said London is going to have a (good) team this year. They didn't want me to miss out on a Memorial Cup chance and a gold medal with the world junior team. It's understandable."

Kadri is one of those nice kids. He's shown he can handle adversity without losing sight of how that adversity can help him.

Kadri's goal was to make the Leafs this year. But at the worse, he wanted to leave management with a tougher decision to make.

"For me, it would have been nice to play a couple of regular season games but this isn't the worst thing," he said. "I did the best that I could and I was happy with that."

More importantly was what he proved to himself and the Leafs.

"I proved to myself that I could actually play in (the NHL) and that another year of development will actually help me out."

And that's the right decision for everyone involved.


Photos