On Monday, Nazem Kadri, 7th overall selection in the 2009 draft, was assigned to the Toronto Marlies. The player in whom a whole city had welcomed, became enamoured with and inked into their own starting lineup will not appear at ACC at allâ€¦ at least not yet. It will prove to be a powerful lesson for the 19 year old, if not the whole city of Toronto; the Toronto Maple Leafs are about winning hockey games, not necessarily selling tickets.
It seems like a simple principle, I know, but for the people of Toronto this comes as a revelation.
For years fans have leaned heavily on the complaint that the Maple Leafs brass live happily icing mediocrity. That the importance of regular season success was diminished by financial prosperity. With the assignment of Kadri to the Marlies, Brian Burke, Leafs‘ President and General Manager, sent the firm message that no longer can truth be found in that complaint.
Sure, Kadri would sell more sweaters than Tim Brent and draw bigger crowds than Clarke MacArthur – but fan base is not part of the equation. With the assignment of Kadri to the AHL, all were told that there were more talented top-six forwards and harder working bottom-six players. In order for the Toronto Maple Leafs to win games, Nazem is to be sent down. For Kadri to develop into the player which his potential holds – an offensively gifted top-six centre with the tenacity to run any opponent through the end boards – he must tread in the footsteps of many before him.
The AHL has been has been developing top-end talent for 75 years, and for Kadri it’s the perfect stop on his way to being an NHL regular. Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg and Carl Gunnarsson are among the NHL’ers that played with the Marlies just this past season. The foundations of the Red Wings organization is built on steady development through their AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. There’s a lot to be said for prospects getting a taste of the pro life without the pressure that the NHL holds.
]Dallas Eakins, Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies, couldn’t be a better tutor for the teenage Kadri. Having been with the Maple Leafs organization for the past four seasons, Eakins spent a considerable amount of time as the team’s Director of Player Development. Having plucked Eakins from an office down the hall to name him Head Coach, Brian Burke has complete faith that the Dallas is the perfect man to develop his prospects.
The Marlies training facially is located in the same building, and directly across the hall, from the Leafs. On the ice the Marlies are often conditioned by Leafs’ Graeme Townshend, and in the gym Anthony Belza, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the buds, will have a personalized workout regimen for Nazem. This extra step will not be a hindrance, but rather a benefit.
And at the end of it, one year from now when we examine the development of the London-native, Kadri will have vastly improved – no question. He will be better prepared to join the NHL, and help continue a pattern of winning for the Maple Leafs.
Development is for the Marlies but right now, it’s all about winning for the Leafs.
Note: Brian Burke also announced today that Christian Hanson (F), Luca Caputi (F) and Jussi Rynnas (G) have been assigned to the AHL Marlies. Jay Rosehill (F) and Danny Richmond (D) have also been assigned to the Toronto AHL club pending they first clear waivers.