Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri Makes Last Stand Despite Constant Criticism

Dwight WakabayashiCorrespondent IIJanuary 17, 2013

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 23: Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs returns to the bench after scoring at 14:56 of the second period against the New Jersey Devils   at the Prudential Center on March 23, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I thought I had heard all the reasons why Nazem Kadri is not a regular for the Toronto Maple Leafs four years into his career.

Until this morning. This morning it got comical and ridiculous, and proved just how hard it is in a fishbowl market like Toronto.

Former NHL defenceman and current NHL analyst, Ric Nattress was on the Jeff Blair show this morning on the Fan 590 radio station and here is what he said in regards to the state of Kadri's game.

"Yes he got three goals in the first period of the scrimmage, but he wasn't particularly good in the second or third. When you look at his eyes when he speaks I'm not totally convinced that he thinks the defensive side is important."

Really? His eyes when he speaks? I have had enough and can't take anymore of this criticism of the youngster. How about taking a look at the numbers and facts before you gaze deep into his eyes to get some perspective.

Worried about Kadri being a liability on the ice? His offensive numbers and clear skill speak for themselves, and here are the defensive facts;

In junior, Kadri was an elite offensive player and also brought an edge to his game that opponents had to respect. He put up monstrous numbers and was a +59 player in his junior career. His last two seasons were played under defensive specialist Dale Hunter, who speaks highly of his former player. He was a key member on Canada's 2010 silver medal winning World Junior Championship team where he was a +1 player.

I know I know, junior is not the pros, so let's take a peak at his professional career to date.

Kadri has had flashes of brilliance in the little time he has had with the Leafs, generating many chances out of nothing and pitching in the odd beautiful shootout goal that no one else on the Leafs can seem to deliver. He has a great game and then he is shuffled around and benched at the sight of the slightest turnover. He has played 51 games in the NHL and is a horrible -2 overall, however he has shown improvement as he was a +2 player last year when on the Leafs.

Not as horrible as the Leafs or Nattress would have you believe.

Kadri has played 119 games to date in the AHL and is a point a game and a +9 player. Last season he was a key component in the Marlies run to the Calder Cup finals and they faltered badly after he and Matt Frattin went out with injury. This season he continues his point a game pace and is a +5.

These numbers tell you that he can't be trusted on the ice?

Leafs management has no more excuses. There is no more entitlement, Kadri has payed dues and earned his chance to stick. There is no size problem, this is the new, softer NHL. The numbers show that he isn't the defensive liability he is made out to be and never has been.

The issue with Kadri is that he is a confident, somewhat cocky player in this crazy roller coaster of a market, whom the Leafs feel they need to keep humble every time his talent and skill thrusts him into the spotlight. The media and fans want to build him up? The Leafs want to offset by breaking him down because they feel it is best for his development.

It has had the opposite effect, and despite his brave face, Kadri has been put through the ringer in this market for no real reason other than to keep his star and ego in check.

Enough already, give him a full season on the club in a key spot. The Leafs are too short on players with Kadri's pure talent, and it is only a matter of time before this talent checks out for good.

You can see it in his eyes.