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In defence of Nazem Kadri

We have yet to hear why Kadri was suspended, but also why he 'doesn't listen'.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get this out of the way with: I'm a Nazem Kadri fan. I'm biased. That said, as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan (and a fan of good hockey in general), I feel that I really should like Nazem Kadri.

Really, he's one of only a few Leafs who have had even a halfway decent season this year, and although he hasn't put up box score totals the way most of us would like him to, there is reason to think he could improve on those. Get him some line mates, and we'll probably see those point totals drift up, right? His 5v5 P/60 among Leafs is second only Leo Komarov (wait, what?) and his possession numbers are arguably best on the team (though it depends quite a bit on which numbers you're looking at - I'm not even looking at adjusted numbers). Is Kadri a first-line centre? Well, he is on this team. Would he be on a good team? No. But Nazem is good, and warrants some defence in light of TSN's recent coverage of his in-house suspension.

I can't really comment on whether or not Kadri should be sitting out right now. None of us here at PPP can, really. TSN's decision to bring in Ron Wilson was, of course, the network's way of doing exactly that. We can't argue with the fact that he has actual experience coaching Kadri, and faced with a lack of information about Kadri's in-house suspension, Wilson's opinion is, for viewership's sake, better than nothing.

Wilson's comments are, at first blush, damning. He seems quite earnest when he says that he doesn't think Kadri ever really listened to him, but I struggle with his rationale. It's the Gordon Bombay logic that really gets me. "I said keep your heads up, and you keep your heads down!" Bombay yells at a bunch of kids who are trying to do what he wants, but are unable. Angry, he finishes his rant with "Why the hell don't you just listen to me!?". This is, in a nutshell, what happened when Wilson called out Kadri for not listening. Players failing to do what you want (especially when not provided with a strategy for doing so) is not the same as ignoring good advice.

Perhaps Wilson had more specific instances in mind where Kadri clearly disobeyed him or didn't listen - it's certainly possible - but I guess I'd prefer to hear about them than what we got yesterday on TSN.

The next item I take some umbrage with is whether or not Kadri is a 1C, 2C, or a poor 2C. He's been good enough to be a 2C for a while, and the fact that Wilson doesn't see that makes me question his opinion just a little. You put Kadri on a line with the Hawks' second line wingers and all the talking heads will be raving about how Kadri would be a 1C elsewhere. The Leafs should be in the business of making those 'hard to soar with eagles when you're surrounded by turkeys' mugs.

Anyway, the Leafs may well have reason to be upset with Kadri right now. I guess we don't know. Ron Wilson may be right when he says that Kadri doesn't listen. But so far, we haven't heard of a real instance where he doesn't listen. Kadri may deserve some flak, but certainly not from Leafs fans who want a decent second line centre.