Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri Needs to Step Up Coming Off Suspension

Nazem Kadri

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a three-game suspension at the worst possible time for his club, Nazem Kadri needs to give the Toronto Maple Leafs his best game of the season when they host the Nashville Predators.

Kadri made an inexcusable mistake when he was suspended after a game against the Minnesota Wild. Toronto was already without Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland due to injuries and the last thing they needed was another center out of the lineup. His reckless actions have now left the 23-year-old with some serious making up to do with the Maple Leafs.

Entering the contest against the Predators, Kadri sits fifth in team scoring with 14 points in 18 games. He hasn’t been disappointing to begin the year, but he also hasn’t been anywhere near worth the $6 million a season he was demanding during the summer. Kadri believed after scoring 44 points in 48 games last year he was worthy of a long-term contract similar to what the Edmonton Oilers handed out to their young talent. General manager Dave Nonis didn’t think Kadri had done enough at the pro level to earn such a lucrative contract and the two sides agreed on a bridge deal over the next two seasons.

At this stage in the season, it looks like Nonis did the right thing in not awarding Kadri with a big contract for last year’s performance due to his inconsistent play and questionable decision making. At times, Kadri has played well but at other times he’s looked invisible on the ice. Then when he was given the best chance of his career to prove he was worthy of the big contract he wanted after Bozak and Bolland went down, he made his team even more shorthanded by getting suspended.

At such a young age, it could just be a maturity issue for Kadri as he continues to find his way being an everyday player in the NHL. His skill is undeniable, however, what goes on between his ears has often left fans and more importantly, the coaching staff, scratching their heads. Whether it’s the continued turnovers at the opposition’s blue-line or getting suspended when his team is already severely shorthanded, every bit of good Kadri does seems to be followed up by a brain cramp that hurts the team.

He should have had all the motivation in the world entering the season after he didn’t get the big contract he wanted in the summer. When P.K. Subban didn’t get the long-term contract he wanted last year he responded by winning the Norris Trophy. Nobody expects Kadri to be in the discussion for a major award at the end of the season but many were hoping he’d have a similar advancement in his game like Subban showed a year ago.

So far, Kadri has looked like the same player he was last season as he continues to make the same mistakes.  If this suspension doesn’t set him straight and open his eyes to how he needs to be a smarter player on the ice then his time in Toronto could be coming to an end. Bozak and Bolland are much stronger defensive players and provide a lot of the little things needed for the Maple Leafs to win games. Although both players aren’t anywhere near as skilled as Kadri is, both are solid in the faceoff dot and are excellent penalty-killers, two things Kadri isn’t.

If the suspension hasn’t motivated Kadri to want to reach the next stage as an NHL player, don’t be surprised to hear his name begin to surface in trade rumors. He could be the main piece of a package needed to finally acquire a true top-line center for the Maple Leafs.

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