From the ‘Not Particularly A Shock’ files …
Per the Toronto Star,Â Nazem Kadri has been returned to the London Knights of the OHL.
This move should not really come as any surprise; as an offensive player Kadri would require top-six forward line minutes in order to most effectively impact his development.Â Â And the fact of the matter is, those minutes simply aren’t going to be there, not with Grabovski, Stajan, Ponikarovski, Blake, and Hagman holding down five of those spots, and with Bozak, Stalberg and Stempniak all fighting for the sixth.
Some have suggested playing Kadri in the bottom six, to have him learn the defensive game and gain NHL experience in a nine game audition (after which he could still be sent back to Junior).Â Â The problem with that is, GM Brian Burke constructs his teams in a very particular manner, and Kadri does not fit with the much-discussed structure of the bottom six on a Brian Burke-built team.
Then there is the question of minutes versus role:Â would lesser minutes, in a defensive role, aid Kadri’s development more than the opportunity to play top minutes in Junior, in a role where he could dominate his league, and represent his country at the WJC?Â Â The decision to send Kadri back to Junior is reflective of the team’s belief that the opportunity for him to be a team leader, and league scoring leader, as well as the chance to play on an international scale at the World Juniors, is far better for his development than playing six to eight minutes per game in a bottom-six role for which he is clearly not suited.
While disappointed to a certain extent to be going back down (who wouldn’t be?), Kadri also made it clear that he understands the move is for the best:
“Everything he said was understandable. I think our meeting was pretty positive. I support the decision … everyone had some doubts about me coming into camp and I think I proved a lot of people wrong and opened some eyes. The bottom line, at the end of the day, I’m being sent back and I have no problem with that. I just have to keep my head held high.”
Although many wanted to see Kadri in the blue and white this season, patience is the key.Â There is no need to rush him if he has room to grow which would be best abetted by time in Junior.Â Â His future is bright; there is no doubt that Kadri opened many eyes during the rookie tournament and preseason.Â Â Brace yourselves, Leafs‘ fans:Â you finally have a legitimate top-level prospect in the system.Â Â Feels strange, doesn’t it?
(And if nothing else, this move all but guarantees a huge groundswell in the size of the London Knights’ fanbase this season.Â See?Â It’s a great move, for everyone involved.)