Leaf fans are going to get another look at their future soon, maybe even tonight. Nazim Kadri just got the call he's been waiting for his entire career. Let's hope he's ready!
With only one win in their last eleven games the Leafs have erased any of the optimism they created with their great start. I suspect no realistic fan really thought they were as good as they showed in their first four games, but we didn't think they were as bad as they were last year either. With a loss tonight they will be worse!
In three of the Leafs last eleven games they've been shut-out 3 times, and been held to 1 goal three times. Phil Kessel, by far the best offensive player on the team, has not recorded a point in his last seven games. Given the fact he's slumped like this before, I can only wonder if he's the type of player we should be counting on to make this team a consistent winner. Tyler Bozak, Kessel's preferred center is pointless in his last three games as well. In Bozak's defense, I think it's very unfair to expect much more than what we've seen from this undrafted, U.S. Collegiate free agent, with less than a full year in the NHL.
Suffice it to say, this team is very weak upfront. We were told early on by management not to worry as we would see more scoring from the back end. That hasn't happened yet either. With Phaneuf injured and not scoring when he was healthy, and little coming from anyone else on defense, I wonder if that was more talk to ease restless fans, rather than a realistic expectation. So, where does this leave Nazim Kadri?
I can't help but wonder why Kadri has been called to the big club. On the surface it's obvious. The club stinks offensively and is in desperate need of a shake-up. My problem with this is only a few days ago Brian Burke was telling Leaf Nation he wasn't planning on calling on Kadri yet. At the end of training camp Burke and Wilson both stated Kadri was not ready physically or mentally. He's had 14 games in the AHL to improve his game. I hope he has. Burke says he has, but only days ago wasn't considering calling him up. My fear is this is just another of Burke's impatient quick fixes. I hope I'm wrong.
So, what should Leaf fans expect from Kadri? He's been a point a game player for the Marlies this year. We're told he's a better two way player and strong on the power play. Again, on the surface this sounds exactly like the player we need right now. Below the surface I think fans need to remember he's still a very raw prospect, being called upon the help a very weak offensive team. This team has been embarrassing offensively and for good reason. They're players aren't very good. With the exception of Kessel, no one else is a legitimate scoring threat. Kulemin and Versteeg will get their share of points and MacArthur will do fine. After that the cupboard is bare. Even if Kadri can make an impact, it still may not be enough. So, here's to hoping Kadri will make an impact and give the rest of the team the wake-up call it desperately needs. He's got the confidence, temperament and skill to be a very good player down the road. Of this I have no doubt. He's no savior however and nor should he be expected to be.