TORONTO — Nazem Kadri has become one of the NHL’s highest-volume shooters, only with some of the worst results this season.
The Toronto forward has scored once for every 17 shots, the second-least effective mark among forwards with at least 200 shots. Maple Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock has been prodding the 25-year-old to work on his shot, something he’s been doing in recent weeks alongside members of the team’s skill development staff before practice.
He’s trying to tweak the mechanics of a shot that’s generated 14 goals on 243 attempts (lowly six per cent efficiency).
“I’m comfortable shooting in one stance,” he said in a recent interview. “That’s just how I’ve done it for my whole career.
“But the mechanics of shooting is being deceptive and shooting off both feet so you don’t telegraph your shot as much so when you go to shoot the puck everyone in the building doesn’t know you’re shooting it.”
Increased deception is Kadri’s primary goal in shooting more effectively. He wants to release the puck quicker to catch opposing goaltenders off-guard more often. The shot doesn’t necessarily have to be harder, just more deceptive.
Kadri wants to lean into his stick a little more and get more bend from it and thus more snap on the shot. He’s also trying to shoot more off both feet “so I don’t have to really think about it much when I do it in a game.”
In addition to practising such improvements, Kadri has been watching video of his scoring chances to try to glean areas for improvement.
“You can do a lot,” Babcock said of improving a shot. “But it’s not going to be because someone came here and worked three days with you.
“It’s going to be because you hire someone in the summer, you make a commitment to getting stronger and you work at it in the off-season. No different than a basketball player would.”
Babcock pointed to Paul Kariya, who scored 400 goals in his NHL career, as someone who “couldn’t shoot” when he came into the league but worked on it to the point where it became a weapon.
Kadri scored a career-high 20 goals on only 148 shots in the 2013-14 season.
He’s been shooting the puck more than ever this year. He’s on pace for nearly 270 shots or almost one per game more than he averaged last season.
Some of his inefficiency is likely tied to bad luck as he was a 13 per cent shooter in the three previous seasons. He’s also simply shot in higher volume this year with the intent of creating more secondary scoring chances for himself and teammates.
Still, only two forwards in NHL history have finished a season with more than 250 shots and 15 goals or less, according to Hockey-Reference.com. Kadri is on pace to join Jason Blake and Michael Frolik in that group.
There’s reason to believe an improved shot might just lead to a few more goals.
“I don’t care who you are, if you’ve got a great shot or you’ve got a decent shot or you’ve got a bad shot, a shot is something you can always work on,” Kadri said.