Nazem Kadri joined PTS to discuss the addition of John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs, his friendship and history with Tavares, and what it means for the organization.
On whether he played a role in the recruitment efforts
Kadri: There was some contact. He had spoken a ton more so with the management as far as all of that goes and what we could provide. Afterwards, I certainly reached out to him when it was confirmed. I could just tell the excitement he had and how interested and excited he was to come to the city of Toronto, where he grew up a Leafs fan. I am sure he is going to be eager to get started and so are we.
On whether he met with Tavares prior to the decision
Kadri: No. I mean, I was going to fly out to see him in California, but plans sort of fell through. It was very last minute. It was kind of tough for me to rearrange my schedule, but I was going to go and have a conversation with him out there, but unfortunately, it just kind of unfolded and I wasn’t able to make it.
On what he would’ve told Tavares if he did make it out to California for the pitch
Kadri: Wins. That’s the simple answer. We are trying to build something special. We are not only trying to build it for the next two or three years; it’s going to be about a significant amount of time where we can contend. I think that’s what he is most excited about. Not to mention off the ice – I know he is getting married and we have a great group of wives and girlfriends that she is going to get along with wonderfully. I just think all of that coming together made the decision easier.
On whether he knew Tavares’ decision before the official announcement
Kadri: I mean, I was tipped off a little bit beforehand. I kind of had the inside scoop, but it was never 100% certain. It was just the likelihood of that happening. I knew there was still a chance he could slip away and go to another team. It was never 100% guaranteed, but obviously, when I found out it was confirmed, I was thrilled. Can’t wait to have him in the room.
On whether Tavares is a good fit for the captaincy in Toronto
Kadri: That’s more of a management side question, but I definitely know he can handle it. He’s a guy that has got some pretty big shoulders and he can put a lot of weight on them. He’s a great player and he’s been under a lot of pressure since he was 13, 14 years old. Just the hype for John Tavares, I remember back in the day, was through the roof. I’m not sure how a young kid handled it as well as he did, but he’s used to that.
With JT, he always was more mature and more professional than everybody else at a younger age. Having that hype surrounding him – he was granted the exceptional player in the OHL, first player to do that – he was a pretty special player at a very young age. You kind of have to adapt that maturity and it forces you to grow up a little faster than many young kids would like, but he has that maturity and that’s one of the pros about Johnny.
On how his role may change with John Tavares added down the middle
Kadri: At the end of the day, I just want to win. Every single time, every single year I watch the Stanley Cup Finals. The two teams are playing in June and I just want that so bad for the city and the organization. From my understanding — I’ve spoken with management and Babs – my role isn’t going to decrease or change. I am still going to be the matchup guy and on the power play that has probably gotten a bit of a boost now that JT is on board. If we are going to win, it’s not going to be dependent on just one or two guys. We are going to be a whole group.
On the impact of Tavares’ addition to the lineup and what it means for the team
Kadri: He means a lot. He has got the talent to be in that one spot. He just brings so much in terms of off the ice. He’s a leader and a professional. I know, from playing with him, he takes care of himself and his preparation is second to none. I think that is one thing that is going to mesh well with our team. The obvious thing is the scoring touch. Even back in the day, he used to just have a knack for the net and was able to produce goals every single year. It’s going to be great.
We certainly want to be more competitive and we are heading in the right direction before this acquisition, and this makes us better. To be clear, I think the excitement level should be there. We just signed a terrific hockey player and a guy who is really going to improve our team, but we haven’t won anything yet. We’ve still got to go out there and take care of business. The work starts now.
On pumping the breaks on the hype train
Kadri: It’s just that everyone is going to say we’re the favourite to win the Stanley Cup; the whole plan the parade on Bay St. Everyone has just got to relax. We are going to be a great team. Johnny is going to help us win hockey games, but at the end of the day, there are going to be some obstacles. Things aren’t going to go terrific and exactly how we want them to throughout the season, but it’s about adapting and adjusting. Once Johnny comes in and we feel out the chemistry and get the power play going, and just little things like that, we will start to become more dangerous.
On how long it will take to build chemistry with the new addition
Kadri: It’s tough to say. It is different with any player or team. But Johnny is a smart guy. He is going to come in and get a sense of what expectations are. He is going to get a sense of the dressing room. We are obviously going to start the bond as teammates with all of us on the road. A couple of road trips will help. I expect it not taking that long, but we’ll see.
On the difference between Kyle Dubas and Lou Lamoriello
Kadri: I’ve got unbelievable things to say about Lou. He has treated me with such class from the minute he got here to the minute he left. Lou has been great. He’s a very intelligent man. But I think Kyle is more new school whereas Lou is a little more traditional. I think he’s modernized. He’s younger, so in terms of that, that’s the only difference. Lou was also kind of grooming Kyle as he came up, and what better role model or mentor to have than Lou Lamoriello?
I think his legacy is going to live on with us. But so far Kyle has done a great job.
On his goals for the offseason
Kadri: I have been trying to get on the ice a little bit more this summer and work on the mechanics of skating. You’ve got to keep up with the speed. I’m just trying to find any way I can to get stronger on my edges or gain a step or half a step. That’s really one thing I am trying to focus in on. So far, it’s been going pretty well.