Players don’t come with better hands than those of Nazem Kadri. Talent. That’s his game. The kind of free flowing hockey mind that can crack any system, work against any scheme and open up space with a single deke or pass.
Unfortunately, there have been too many cases where talent just didn’t come to fruition. Talent has the ability to seduce, to make one take it for granted. If you possess enough skill, ability in something, anything, you do it’s just a matter of time when certain thoughts come creeping in. You inevitably start noticing and recognizing the difference between you and other players and it shows. Not only do you gain more confidence but as a side effect you truly start to believe you could do this with less effort.
In my personal experience, every good player has that thought sooner or later. What separates good from great, or rather failure from success of one such talented individual is his ability to tone that voice down and work even harder not to get complacent. That drive, the motivation can come from anything from wanting to be the absolute best in what you do, or just upping the level of competition you play against.
Thatâ€™s usually what happens in hockey. Junior talent meets the NHL. How he responds to that new level of competition is what makes or breaks him as a player. The process of adaptation can take a few years, thatâ€™s why in most cases it requires strong compete level or will to pick yourself up going from Superman to scratch boy in oneâ€™s rookie season.
In a way, I always thought that players with less talent have it easier. They often have less pressure from the community, they are entitled to more celebration when they achieve something special since success is considered normal for the phenom. Exceptional talent doesnâ€™t succeed; he just fulfils prophecies, meets expectations or grabs his destiny. Or he fails miserably.
Less talented individuals have a tendency to have their work ethic built from an early age, because they had to fight hard for every chance they got. For some phenoms playing is a constant inner struggle to tame that ego, and a sudden realization to develop a work ethic equal to that of a less talented player.
Yes, for every Crosby, every Stamkos there are numerous examples of players that didnâ€™t want to work as hard. It takes an exceptional player who, besides blessed with exceptional natural ability, also trains to match. Exceptional mind with willpower to constantly be obsessed with the idea that â€œsomebody out there is doing that extra skate, somebody is training harder than me and I canâ€™t let that happenâ€. Thatâ€™s what it takes to be Sidney Crosby. Thatâ€™s why there is only one currently playing.
I donâ€™t think Nazem has that problem. He wants it. How much? Time will tell. One thing we canâ€™t deduce from interviews is will he be the next Mike Ribeiro, or the next Rob Schremp. For me, the look in his eyes while playing tells a good chunk of the story.