FanPost

Ok, just hear me out for a second...

I'll paraphrase this by assuring you all that I have not been taking any "goof balls" or similar medications.

On today's Leafs Lunch there was significant discussion as to the Leafs keeping Kadri this season. MLHS discusses it here. And you can listen to the Leafs Lunch here.

After hearing both sides of the story (Brady's and Kat's) I have to say that while I respect Kat's knowledge, I'm not really sold on Kat's reasoning, specifically this part:

I told a friend this opinion after listening to Leafs Lunch, and he smacked me with something I had told him back in the day regarding his boy, Jason Spezza. He’s an Ottawa fan, and his response was this:

To play devil’s advocate….

You’ve argued in the past that the best place for Spezza was developing at the NHL level rather than the AHL level. My evaluation tells me that Kadri is essentially right where Spezza was after his first training camp. At the time, I thought Spezza should go to the A.

How is this any different? Wouldn’t Kadri benefit from NHL practice and coaching?

My response was:

Ah, touche … very interesting … my only counter I think could be the difference in size, Kadri has to bulk up. Another thing is that Spezza was a necessity on an offensively fragile team at the height of the trap. His offensive talents were needed in Ottawa more than Kadri’s are needed at this present moment in Toronto; Kadri would be a nice to have, but not a necessity. The game is different now, more opened up, with a focus on speed and skill, but when Spezza broke into the NHL, he was playing on a defensive club, with some talent around him, playing for Jacques Martin, a defensive-minded coach. It would have been easier for Spezza to step in and contribute than Kadri would at this point in time.

After reading that line of reasoning something didn't sit right. I realized it was a contradiction of sorts.

Kat says

"Kadri has to bulk up"

but then proceeds to say:

"The game is different now, more opened up, with a focus on speed and skill".

So doesn't this mean that Kadri's type of game (speed and skill) doesn't necessarily require him to "bulk up"? Spezza was bigger than Kadri is now, but as Kat says:

when Spezza broke into the NHL, he was playing on a defensive club, with some talent around him, playing for Jacques Martin, a defensive-minded coach.

So Spezza's size was needed for his role. I don't think anyone would compare Ron Wilson's style of hockey to Jacques Martin. And Ron Wilson has put a young player in the NHL before. He had a 19 year old Jan Bulis in Washington, he gave a young Milan Michalek a chance at 18 in San Jose and an 18 year old Oleg Tverdovsky in Anaheim.

And then there's Brian Burke. People talk about how he didn't rush Bobby Ryan or Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf. But as Brady pointed out, there was a huge amount of skill in Anaheim and therefore no need to bring them up. And even with the skill available, Perry and Getzlaf both played major roles at the age of 20. And if you go back to his Vancouver days, the Sedins were both 20 when they debuted and that was behind an effective offense of Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi.

Sending Kadri back to London makes sense if he's able to learn something further there. This was the line with Schenn before the decision was made to keep him. Schenn was capable of sticking as an NHL defense man at the age of 18, a position that usually takes longer to develop than forwards.

The Leafs Lunch crew brought up some good reminders of great teams that pushed a young star into the limelight:

The 83-84 Red Wings with 19 year old Steve Yzerman:

The Red Wings prior to Yzerman's arrival were absolutely abysmal. An assortment of above average talent but no real star (Ogrodnick aside!). They had missed the playoffs the previous 5 seasons in a row and just finished dead last in their division. Yzerman's arrival, coupled with a full season from Ivan Boldirev who had been acquired via trade midway through 82-83 and the acquisition of Ron Duguay, brought them immediately back into the playoffs in 83-84.

Yzerman was 5'11'' and 160lbs.

More recently we've seen some success with young stars:

Another London Knight, Sam Gagner. Sure, Gagner did have a bit more size during his rookie season than Kadri, but I think it would be interesting to see how much of a difference it makes given the Leafs substantial bulk in all other positions.

Of course an 18 year old Patrick Kane managed 21g 51a, 72pts and playing all 82 games while standing all of 5'9" and 160lbs in 2007-08. And he was playing alongside a bigger 19 year old, Jonathan Toews, who managed 24g 30a 54pts that same year.

A 19 year old David Perron did alright while being under 6' and barely 180lbs.

Heck, even an 18 yr old Phil Kessel survived to play 70 games.

All of this might not mean enough to you, so let's talk about another potential benefit of keeping Kadri that was put on display in one recent game. Shootouts. One of the main reasons that was quoted for the Leafs bringing in Kessel, was his shootout success.

"It'll be a while before our fans see him, but he'll bring tremendous foot speed. He should improve our power play and he's a good shootout player and in our game, that's an important asset," said Burke. "He's a dynamic player." - Brian Burke on Phil Kessel.

If they truly value shootout success as an important asset, it would be hard to ignore Kadri's apparent talent in this area when determining what to do with him. Does this alone earn him a spot on the roster, not in my eyes, but when you combine it with the other factors listed above and Wilson's apparent constant in-joke with the media and fans it seems like it is a possibility at the least.

Wilson's said Kadri would have to take a spot from the Top 6, quite possibly beat Matt Stajan or Mikhail Grabovski out of a center job. The Leafs are not the Red Wings or Penguins. Stajan and Grabs combined for 35 goals last year. Grabs had a total of 48 pts and a -8 in 78 games. Grabs faceoff was %44.5. If you don't want to replace the centers, then let's look at the wingers for the top two lines:

Ponikarovsky, Blake, Hagman and who? Kulemin? maybe.. Stempniak? possibly...Both of them were given the opportunity last year and 31pts and 26 goals combined is below average from 2nd line wingers. Sure Kessel will slot in there in November, so why not try Kadri until then at least? There are no guarantees Blake will perform as well as last year and if he falters you can slot Kadri in and move Blake to the third line.

A lot of people keep saying that we can replace the numbers we lost with Antropov, Moore at forward. Wouldn't Kadri be a possible source of some of this lost offense, at the very least until Kessel debuts?

Has Wilson been pulling the wool over our eyes, playing a mind game as Bill Watters would have you believe? Will it be the big reveal this year as Schenn was last year? I really don't know anymore, but I'm very interested to find out.

With each day Kadri seems to be learning more at a rapid pace and is starting to make a believer out of this Leafs fan who was certain he'd be in London to start this year.

To whit:

"If he's ready, he's ready," Wilson said. "When I watch him, I'm looking at how he moves on pucks, how he defends the forecheck and does he get the puck out cleanly.

"If he played in junior he might not get better. He might be beyond junior. You send some kids back and could find out later that he picked up bad habits or didn't try hard.

"But don't read into this that he's on the team. We just have to look at things like that. You have to look at the depth on our team, too. (The injuries) could delay some decisions. I'm playing some guys more than I like, but that's not always a bad thing." - Ron Wilson on Luke Schenn (Oct 1st 2008)

"I know what he's feeling right now," said Schenn. "Obviously there's a lot of eyes on him.

"He looks good and it looks like nothing is getting to him. If you show you're ready to play at this level, you're big enough and strong enough to make the jump, they'll make room for you no matter what your age is."

"My mindset is to make this hockey club," said Kadri. "It's what I want more than anything. I've been dreaming about this since I was a little kid."

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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