Another Saturday night, another chance for Don Cherry to defend Leafs rookie Nazem Kadri.
Here were his thoughts yesterday from his Coach's Corner pulpit this weekend:
At issue for Grapes were some critical comments from coach Ron Wilson after Thursday's 3-1 win over the Devils.
"Let's get something straight here now, the kid was the first star, he was a plus player, he had no giveaways and had two assists and the coach after the game said he has nasty habits," Cherry said.
"Why would a coach say a young boy has nasty habits? You want to know why? I'll tell you why. Because they've got to justify him not being up here [with the Leafs]from the start."
(Cherry criticizing Wilson is nothing new, as we've heard similar comments since he started coaching in Toronto.)
Kadri said at practice Sunday he didn't yet know what Cherry had to say but appreciated the support. Wilson didn't speak with the media today.
"I did hear [about it]" Kadri said. "I actually have no clue what Don said. It seems like he's always got my back. I actually had Don as a coach in the prospects game and you know I got to know him pretty well there. Every time he gives me a shout out, I'm more than happy to accept it."
Kadri played 19:38 in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Habs and acquitted himself fairly well despite not finding the back of the net. He's been better, frankly, than I expected so far with the Leafs and gives them at least a little more creativity in the offensive zone, something this team desperately needs.
It'll be interesting to see if he is, as Marlies coach Dallas Eakins mentioned a few weeks ago, "the goat" at the NHL level at some point. So far, Kadri's "habits" haven't cost the Leafs and he's helped them put the puck in the net, with three assists in four games.
A few more comments from Kadri today:
On the chemistry he has with linemates Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak:
"It's pretty nice. It's almost like we don't have to look to find each other. And even with Bozie, too, it's all three of us. Even though we didn't score last night, we had quite a few 'A' opportunities and as long as we're getting those chances, we're going to score sometime.
"To be honest, I think things have already started clicking. Maybe we're just gripping our sticks a little too tight. But we're getting our chances, we're cycling the puck in the offensive zone, we're getting pucks to the net. It's only a matter of time.
"I think it might be a little easier [playing with Kessel]than it is in the minors. Things are so much more structured, guys are so positionally sound, it's unbelievable. It's great to be a part of."
On feeling anxious about getting his first NHL goal:
"A little bit. I think every single game I've played, I've had a few opportunities in each game to put the puck in the net, but it's just not going in for me. I'm getting my chances. I can score goals, too, so it's only going to be a matter of time."
Overall, is he happy with how he's played?
"I think I've been playing very well on a personal note. I've been doing all of the things I wanted to do. I have high expectations for myself. Hopefully I can exceed those expectations and I think so far I am."