October 4, 2010
Leafs' Kadri has the right attitude
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The first rule in learning how to play against men is acting like one yourself.
To that end, Nazem Kadri seems to have passed his first major test on his climb to the NHL.
When it was over, Maple Leafs management made the only logical decision it could when it announced the worst-kept secret in hockey Monday.
Yes, Nazem Kadri is going to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies. If that turn of events shocks you, you must have just slithered out of a cave.
Simply put, he just wasn’t ready for the National Hockey League. Not yet anyway.
That might not be the case next week, next month, even next year. In fact, judging by his mature reaction to his re-assignment, Kadri might be back with parent club sooner rather than later.
Simply put, when Leafs general manager Brian Burke informed him of the news, he took it like a man.
“There’s no sense in crying about it,” Kadri said in a phone interview Monday night. “That serves no purpose whatsoever.
“It’s about working hard and showing you belong up there.”
When Burke told him earlier in the day that he was ticketed for the farm, the Leafs GM explained that he’d once had this same discussion in Anaheim with Ryan Getzlaf, who built on his time on the farm to go on to win a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal.
If Kadri ends up being anywhere near the productive player that the dominating Getlaf has become, Burke and his management team will be giddy at the results.
“This was my second time through an NHL training camp and I know what I have to do,” Kadri said. “There are a lot of great things I can learn down there.
“It’s a process.”
Perhaps the biggest eye-opener for the former London Knights star came during Friday’s 7-3 pre-season thrashing at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The high-flying Wings put on an exhibition, all right, producing an offensive and defensive display that showed Kadri first-hand how top-end professionals take care of business at both ends of the ice.
Of all the pre-season tilts he laced up for, the Detroit loss probably was more productive than the one earlier in the week, a 5-4 victory over the rival Ottawa Senators in which he scored two goals and one assist.
The Ottawa win might have given him confidence, sure. But the defeat to the Red Wings showed him just how far he has to go in order to reach that level.
“I think Nazem’s accepted that he’s made his own bed,” Burke said. “I think he’s been very mature about it.”
He’s had to be, what with Kadri-palooza having run amok at Leafs camp the past three weeks. Given the intense media coverage and soap opera twists and turns that have accompanied his efforts to make the Leafs, the outstanding pre-season performances from Kris Versteeg and Nokolai Kulemin have been overshadowed.
Through it all, Burke
believes in Kadri, even if the critics don’t.
“If I could go back to the draft and you gave me the microphone again, I would take Nazem Kadri again,” Burke said. “We believe in Nazem as a hockey player and a person. He’s just not ready for the top six yet.”
Burke was asked if Kadri’s so-so training camp was a by-product of being in the hockey fishbowl that is Toronto.
“If the expectations are too much for you as a young player in Toronto, then you know you’ve drafted the wrong kid,” he said. “There are different demands when you are in a Canadian market. I think he’s handled things well.”
Kadri’s AHL salary is $65,000 US, a far cry from his NHL base of $810,000. He could also make another $850,000 in bonuses at the NHL level.
Kadri only has one regular-season NHL game on his resume, yet his face can be found on the ducats for four different games held by season ticket holders.
If he shows the type of maturity on the ice that he’s showing off it right now, maybe it won’t be too long before you see him performing live at the Air Canada Centre instead of the Ricoh Coliseum.