Leafs' Kadri showing frustration

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Nazem Kadri, in his own mild-mannered way, appears irked.

There is no yelling. Or bitching. Or whining. In fact, he insists his reassignment from the Maple Leafs down to the Marlies on Wednesday will be an opportunity to “get back where I want to be.”

Maybe so.

But in the process of a 10-minute interview Wednesday night, Kadri, 20, uses words like “disappointing,” “bitter” and “brutal” to describe his emotions, recent events, you name it.

First off, Kadri is asked about his meeting with respected Leafs front office types Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin, who sat him down Wednesday morning informing him of his fate.

“It was a little bit bitter,” he said. “But I can learn from it.”

Fair enough. At the same time, how disappointing was it?

“Obviously very,” Kadri replied. “My goal was to stay up there. That’s what I wanted to do.”

What about finding himself as a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games with the Leafs?

“It was brutal,” Kadri said. “I don’t enjoy being a healthy scratch. It was a very tough pill to swallow. No one likes to sit there and watch their team playing out there, especially when you think you could be out there contributing.”

Kadri is not ranting when supplying these answers. Nor is he slagging the organization. At the same time, in his own calm cool and collected way, he is finally allowing a peek at his true feelings.

And, at this point, one thing is becoming clear: Neither Leafs management nor Kadri are happy with the situation right now, albeit for far different reasons.

In Kadri’s mind, he knows he needs to work on specific things to refine his game. He just figures the best place to do that might be at the NHL level.

“Obviously turnovers were a big thing,” he said. “I thought I was getting a little better with that. Staying low when you are working against the boards, staying low to get into better position, those are all things I need to work on and will.”

On the other hand, coach Ron Wilson feels Kadri’s game will be better refined on the farm.

“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.”

In registering zero goals and just six assists in 17 games as a Leaf, Kadri received an average of 16:49 of ice time per game including power-play opportunities and frequent chances to line up alongside the likes of Phil Kessel.

In the process, Wilson stressed to Kadri that it is OK to dump pucks over the opposing blue line instead of carrying it. It’s something he still needs to learn.

Kadri insists he “respects” the Leafs decision, and rightly so. They are his bosses. At the same time, the organization’s public criticism of the kid in recent months, coupled with this bringing-him-up-and-sending-him-down act, has turned the situation into a real circus, media included.

Wilson, for example, told AM-640 just before Christmas that the extra weight the team encouraged Kadri to add during the off-season may, in fact, have cost him a step.

On Wednesday, however, the coach once again said Kadri needed to get stronger.

So, which is it?

Talk about mixed messages.

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. He’ll return to the Marlies lineup Friday in Grand Rapids, the start of a nine-game trip.

As Kadri himself admits, maybe getting out of the spotlight of Toronto might be good for him for a couple of weeks.

Given what he has been through this season, it can’t hurt.

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