|The Leafs sent Nazem Kadri to the Marlies Wednesday after playing in 17 games this season. (QMI Agency/Jim Wells)
TORONTO - Nazem Kadri's roller-coaster season has taken another sudden turn, one coach Ron Wilson hopes will benefit the young forward in the long run.
Given the mixed signals management has sent the past few months about the 2009 first round pick, that remains to be seen.
After registering six points (all assists) in 17 games with the Maple Leafs, the decision was made to send Kadri back to the Marlies on Wednesday.
Kadri must still serve the final two games of a suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct he received from the AHL prior to his being called up to the Leafs on Nov. 13. The Marlies will start a nine-game road trip on the day he is scheduled to return.
Prior to his reassignment Wednesday, Kadri had been made a healthy scratch by Wilson in three of the previous four games with the Leafs.
"He's had a tough time the past three or four weeks," Wilson said. "We've tried to help him work through it up here but the best thing for him right now is to go down to the minors, play, score at the level he can score at and gain some confidence.
"He can learn some of the things he still needs to learn there. It's difficult to do that in the crucible that is the NHL."
Kadri received an average of 16 minutes 49 seconds of ice time per game with the Leafs, including power play opportunities and frequent chances to line up alongside the likes of Phil Kessel.
Through it all, one of the lessons Wilson tried to teach Kadri was to dump the puck into the opposing end instead of trying to carry it over the blue line all the time. It's something Kadri still needs to work on.
"Everything will depend on the work he puts in, how he plays and the effort he puts in," Wilson said when asked if Kadri would be summoned back to the Leafs later this season.
"He still needs to get stronger. (And) there are aspects of the game he still is struggling at at the NHL level. Strength. Little areas like faceoffs. Being quick. Avoiding turnovers.
"He knows the things he has to work on. Now he's got to practise them, work on them, and execute them in games."