Leafs Call Up Kadri, Aulie

Leafs Call Up Kadri, Aulie

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Looking to break out of their current slump and perhaps send a message
to underachieving players, the Toronto Maple Leafs have called up
forward Nazem Kadri and defenceman Keith Aulie from the Toronto Marlies
of the American Hockey League on Friday.

Kadri has five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 14 games with the
Marlies this season. Leafs President and GM Brian Burke along with Head
Coach Ron Wilson made the decision to send Kadri to the AHL prior to the
regular season, in order to further develop his all-around game.

The Leafs selected Kadri in the first round (seventh overall) of the
2009 NHL Draft. He has one regular season game under his belt, which
took place due to an emergency call-up from the OHL last season. A
remarkable junior career with both the Kitchener Rangers and the London
Knights, kadri tallied 92 goals and 166 assists for 258 points in 242
career games.

“I have to be dedicated,” Kadri said last month. “I’m willing to learn
and do anything I can to be a better player. I know I have a lot of
things to work on. This is a developmental league and I’m willing to
work hard and do whatever it takes.”

Keith Aulie was acquired from the Calgary Flames in the trade that
brought Captain Dion Phaneuf to Toronto. In 14 games with the Marlies
this season, the 6′5″ defenceman has one goal and three assists, and
has been a physical presence on the back end.

Forward Christian Hanson and defenceman Korbinian Holzer have been
re-assigned to the Marlies, making space for the surprising roster
change.

Other than the obvious slump his team is eager to climb out from, Brian
Burke shed light on his reasoning for the call up of Kadri.

“I told him you are not a saviour here,” Burke said of the move. “You
were brought in to give us a spark and don’t carry the weight of the
world around. The group has to turn this around, not one or two players.”

“All the things I asked Nazem to do when we sent him down, he’s done.
Maybe he hasn’t perfected them, but he’s improved dramatically.”

“In an ideal world, if we had won a few of the last games, we would have
given him a bit longer, but he has made the adjustments we’ve asked him
to make. He’s cut down on his turnovers. He’s drawing penalties every
night by getting hauled down. He’s made a lot of the transformation we
need.”

Kadri and Aulie could find their way into the struggling Leafs lineup as
early as Saturday when the Toronto hosts the Vancouver Canucks. At
practice on Friday, Ron Wilson had Kadri placed on a line with Tyler
Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin.

***

Some thoughts from Matt Bracken:

What a better way to ease a fragile young prospect into the world of professional hockey than to call him up during one of the most tumultuous times in recent history for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs brain trust has decided that Nazem Kadri is the answer for the team’s current scoring woes, at least in the short term. This is a move that simply reeks of desperation, a true knee jerk reaction and in my opinion a bad move period.

Kadri comes to a terrible situation with a coach who likely loathes his very presence in the line-up and has already gone on record as saying this wasn’t the type of move he feels would be effective. Wilson who didn’t actually mention Kadri by name made the following statement after a loss to the Ottawa Senators on November 2nd, 2010:

“I wouldn’t understand the point of major moves and things like that,” he continued. “Talking about calling people up from the minors who aren’t playing very well down there. It’s very easy to speculate: ‘He should be up’ and the guy is struggling in the American Hockey League. We’re going to be patient and not circumvent the process here.” It’s hard to imagine his overall sentiment regarding Kadri’s game has changed much in two weeks.

Worse for me is that Nazem Kadri was likely getting resigned to the fact he had a long way to go to becoming ‘big league’ ready and focusing night in and night out on becoming a better overall player was his only worry, in the American Hockey League. Now he is suddenly summoned from the AHL perceived as the savior, a guy they cannot live without and going to a coach who has pointed out (publicly) the obvious flaws in his game.

This is not the way to develop one of our few legitimate prospects. If Kadri provides a few key plays or goals in his first few games it might take the focus off of the areas he truly needs to improve and if he doesn’t make an impact he will be sent back down and likely resent the Leafs for it. Either outcome it is a lose-lose proposition and I am disappointed in Brian Burke for not sticking to his original mantra that the Leafs hold the development of Kadri’s game in higher regard than a quick fix solution.

In fourteen AHL games Kadri has scored 5 goals and added 9 assists and while the defensive play has been questioned it at least appeared he was settling in and starting to show some of the offensive flair we have seen in the past. Let him play in relative anonymity with the Marlies and let him play a lot, in all situations. Let him play in a low key environment so when he makes a mistake a 20-year old will inevitably make it might not completely destroy his confidence.

Basically, let him develop.

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