Leafs’ Nazem Kadri still earning ice time
By Mike Brophy
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri has been shuffled between lines so far this season by head coach Randy Carlyle. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle bristled at the notion Nazem Kadri has been demoted to the third line after a subpar performance when, in fact, that is exactly what has happened.
And given the closeness in offensive ability between the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top three centres – Kadri, Tyler Bozak and David Bolland – it is likely be that way most of the season. The three pivots are interchangeable parts.
“I think you guys read a lot more into it…you always look for some form of negativity in one guy or the other,” Carlyle said. “I don’t look at it that way. We look at it as we have two very talented young players. One is more on the veteran side. I think there have been a lot of expectations heaped on [Kadri] to be a second-line centre here through the summer based on the history of his point production last year.
“All those things are sitting out there and people are saying, ‘He should be this; he should be that.’ That is not reality when you put the skates on every day. Does he have that ability? Does he have that talent? Sure he does. He’s a young player still trying to find his way in the NHL. Because we moved him for one night it seems like it is news.”
Kadri started the season hoping to be the Maple Leafs’ No. 1 centre after finishing second in club scoring last season and signing a new two-year contract on the eve of the opening of training camp. Carlyle can say whatever he wants about the development of Kadri, but clearly he was not happy with the player’s performance in Game 2 of the season.
In the season opener Tuesday in Montreal, Kadri skated on the second line between Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin. He played 23 shifts for 17:38 ice time. He started Game 2 in Philadelphia on the same line, but was benched for a while and then placed on the third line. He skated 17 shifts for 11:53 ice time. He clearly lacked the zip that he showed for most of last season and in Game 1.
Accepting his fate
On Friday morning Kadri was back skating on the third line between Mason Raymond and Troy Bodie. It didn’t help his cause that in stepping up to the second line Bolland scored two goals including the game winner.
Kadri accepted his fate and knows he has to work hard to earn his playing time. He has said all along that the team has lots of quality down the middle and he expects it to be a real competition between all the centres.
“That’s just something that is going to happen; the juggling of lines,” Kadri said. “I don’t think it’ll be the last time you see it this year. I think every guy is good on this team no matter what role they are given and it means you’ve just got to pick it up a little more to get that ice back.”