Some 340 days ago, Nazem Kadri received The Smooch Seen Around The Country.
Kadri and teammate Joffrey Lupul had each just recorded four-point performances in a 4-0 whitewash of the host Ottawa Senators when Don Cherry busted into the Maple Leafs dressing room to fetch the young forward.
Minutes later, there was Kadri on national TV, getting a kiss from Grapes as if he was a modern day Doug Gilmour.
Up in the Maple Leafs management box, team officials hoped that the outstanding showings that had just been turned in by Kadri and Lupul on that memorable March 30 evening in the nationís capital were signs of a bright future for a franchise attempting to make its first post-season appearance since 2004.
Three months later, general manager David Nonis inked free agent David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75-million US pact. And while loyal Toronto fans are alarmed at the lack of production from the Minico native ó and rightly so ó very few of them were bitching at the time of the signing, encouraged that the Toronto brass was being pro-active.
Nazem Kadri. Joffrey Lupul. David Clarkson. Entering training camp, these were the players who were going to provide the offensive depth for a team that already sported one of the NHLís top lines in Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk.
To date, Kessel, Bozak and JVR have been as advertised, if not more.
Kadri, Lupul and Clarkson? Not so much.
And that has to change in a hurry if the Leafs hope to qualify for their second consecutive appearance in the NHLís annual Stanley Cup tournament.