Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we ask our writers to give their opinion on a news item from the hockey world.
Today we turn our attention to Toronto.
The Toronto Maple Leafs called up top prospect Nazem Kadri this morning. Good move or sign of desperation?
I understand the Leafs' wish to do things right when it comes to Kadri's development; why wouldn't you? Nothing is worse than bringing in a player before he's ready for NHL competition and nothing is harder than cutting your NHL teeth in the centre of the hockey universe, at a time when the team is listing badly in the standings and you will, for better or worse, be seen in some quarters as the saviour, no matter how hard Brian Burke and Ron Wilson try to temper expectations.
On the other hand, what do the Leafs have to lose? If Kadri isn't ready, they can always shuffle him out of the line-up again. The problem with development is you never really know when that light bulb moment comes for any young prospect - that is, when the game at the NHL level slows down enough for you make an impact. Think of what Jeff Skinner is doing for the Carolina Hurricanes at the moment. It probably helps Skinner that he's not facing Taylor Hall-level scrutiny and is just getting a chance to play in Carolina. But he's the youngest player in the NHL and at last count, was still in the top-30 in scoring, miles ahead of everyone else in his peer group. Astonishingly, Skinner was ranked 34th by Central Scouting going into the 2010 entry draft; his outstanding playoff on behalf of the Kitchener Rangers (20 goals in 20 games) changed that in the eyes of lots of teams. The point is, Skinner is just screaming up the development curve - and no one could have realistically predicted he'd be this good unless Carolina gave him the chance to play. So give Kadri a chance too - and by that I mean, give him a chance on every level; on the ice, on talk radio and in the newspapers. If he's ready, great. And if not, they'll surely know soon enough anyway.
This is what some people love about the Toronto Maple Leafs; that never-ending source of amusement and amazement.
Nazem Kadri was dumped on during training camp, told he wasn't up to speed then dispatched to the minors. Now, with the big team having won just once in its last 10 games, up comes the same Kadri who is expected to breathe some life into this moribund squad.
From an outsider's viewpoint, the Maple Leafs and their operation are like the Amityville horror. Good people move into the place, become possessed by the spirit of the last owner/coach/general manager and they go weird. Make all sorts of oddball decisions. They say one thing ("We won't trade draft picks") then do the opposite.
It's great fun. More so than watching the Leafs play some nights.
Best line so far goes to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada on Twitter: Kadri callup means Leaf organization is not pushing panic button. It means it's jumping on it with both feet.
The harm is that you've sent a guy down to teach him, presumably, that there is a price to be paid to play in the NHL. Now you're teaching him that there is no price that won't be paid to halt a losing streak, even a prospects future. What happens to Kadri's confidence if he can't lift these stiffs out of their own muck? Do they send him down again? Better to let the ship right itself and bring in Kadri when he's an added piece to a puzzle that has taken shape.
I'm with Grange. It's not like Kadri's been ripping up the AHL, although he's a point-a-game guy at that level, which is more than can be said for any of the Leafs. But it's hard to imagine he's ironed out all the things that made him not-ready-for-prime-time just five weeks ago. You could compare his situation to the way the Sabres, another suckalicious Eastern Conference team, are handling Luke Adam, who is also 20, and happens to have scored more than twice as many goals in the 'A' as Kadri in the same number of games. Adam's been called up a couple of times this year for spot duty, with the understanding he'd be sent back down after the game. Down below, the organization has put him on a line with some veteran AHLers, and want him to dominate in the minors before he gets a full-time call-up. It's not to say Kadri can't play in the NHL, but Burke et. al. may want to engage in some long-term thinking here.
The call-up makes perfect sense. This old notion of the NHL "ruining" frail 18-year-olds is pretty passe in 2010. Kids are taking over for two reasons: smaller contracts, bigger skills. I say let him fly and see what happens. He won't likely make the slightest difference on the ice -- he's not yet strong enough, certanly not dominant in a Patrick Kane way -- but he does bring some needed elements. One, obviously, is hope, the cliche reason for showcasing tomorrow's talent. But the other, far more important to the actual team, is the slap in the face to those who are not performing. It strikes this sportswriter -- not living in Toronto -- ludicrous that the heads being called for are Burke's and, especially, Wilson's, while the true laggards are wearing the skates. They need their noses rubbed in what they have left on the floor, and this is one simple, cheap, easy way to do that. It may not work. But I see no harm at all in it.
Let's see, a 19-year-old centre who couldn't make the team just six weeks ago because his specialized in turnovers. What could possibly go wrong?
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