Prospect Development?

Prospect Development?

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According to TSN’s Ice Chips, Ron Wilson has continued to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic with some more line shuffling. Not that you can blame Wilson for trying; he has too. The practice lines are listed as follows:

MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin
Armstrong – Versteeg – Kessel
Sjostrom – Bozak- Brent
Orr – Kadri – Mitchell

So, Wilson is looking to size up his top six and establish a balance in grit and skill throughout his lines – not a bad idea in principle. Moving Colby Armstrong (it will be interesting to see what impact his return might have in terms of leadership and much-need physicality up front) onto the top units (and hopefully the PP) was a move overdue before the injury.

I could be getting ahead of myself in that this might not wind up as the final lineup for tomorrow night against Boston, but Kadri’s placement on the fourth line makes one step back and think about the way the youngster has been handled since his call-up. Keep in mind he was recalled as a desperate measure with Wilson at the end of his rope in terms of offensive options.

Initially placed on the wing, Kadri showed flashes of the pure skill the Leafs lack in the top six but lacked consistency – to be expected of a player rightfully deemed not ready for full-time, top-six NHL duty two and a half months earlier. The offensive woes continued, not that anyone expected Nazem to solve them himself. Kadri was boldly moved to top line center ice and charged with reigniting a slumping Phil Kessel, an experiment few saw going well, at least around these parts. When that proved to be a bit above Kadri at this stage of his development, the choice seems to have been to shift him down the order to play alongside John Mitchell and Colton Orr on line four in what can only be interpreted as some attempt to send a message. A message which to me reads “we rushed you up here, you did what you could, we demoted you because you didn’t build Rome in a day.”

I think Kadri can still be a constructive part of the top six this season. He has shown the ability to cause opposition defencemen some trouble and might be the only player outside of Kessel that makes other teams think twice at the moment.

I understand this is a desperate situation. And it’s not like this alone suggests Kadri won’t become the player he’s capable of becoming. But please, let’s not play around with the hopes for the future for fear they end up resembling anything close to the present.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]