Throughout his tenure as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, Nazem Kadri has been through a tremendous amount of scrutiny.
Last season, Kadri seemed to rise above it, producing at a point-per-game rate for much of the campaign. His 44 points in 48 games earned him a two-year, $5.8 million extension through the 2014-15 season.
Fast forward to 2014 and Kadri begins the calendar year with production issues, having registered just one point in his last 10 games.
"Nazem brings a lot of this on himself for whatever reason," head coach Randy Carlyle said. "He’s a young player in a popular market. Nazem’s full of confidence and that’s a great thing. (But) when your confidence leaves you, you have to find a way back, with our help to reinstate that."
During a Sunday practice, Carlyle expressed his shock when he saw Kadri pushed off the puck like he was in Saturday’s 7-1 poor effort against the Rangers. While a higher confidence level will lead to success offensively, if Kadri doesn’t hone his defensive game, his value in Carlyle’s eyes diminishes.
"My message to him was find a way to do something a little different" Carlyle said. "Go out there and be stronger on the defensive side. If you play good defence usually there is going to be some offence you will be provided with. Do a little bit extra in the weight room, do a little extra on the bike. Push yourself through the lull and sharpen yourself up."
Kadri remains focused on being an asset as a point producer and feels as though he’s just going through what every perennial goal scoree goes through from time to time.
"I’m always just trying to work as hard as I can and do whatever the coaching staff is asking me to do whether it’s off the ice or on the ice" Kadri said. "I know the best is ahead of me and I have to keep plugging away. This type of thing happens to everybody so I just have to make sure I stay strong and keep working on things I need to work on."
If Kadri doesn’t find his groove quickly and his defensive game continues to be a work in progress, it could force the hand of Carlyle to switch things up.
Peter Holland’s stock continues to rise within the organization
When Tyler Bozak returned from injury on Dec. 29, Holland saw his role diminish to the fourth line. Any other player would likely just be moved around and not much would be said to him. In Holland’s case, the coaching staff made it clear that he’s going to get his opportunity to log some decent minutes should the opportunity come.
Kadri is most valuable to the Leafs when he’s scoring. There appears to be more confidence in Holland’s two-way game that would lean towards him being promoted should Kadri continue to slump.
As noted in the final episode of HBO’s ‘24/7 Road to the Winter Classic,’ the coaching staff did think about perhaps putting Kadri on the fourth line. We may not be that far off.
Carlyle has all but confirmed that Tim Gleason will make his Leafs debut Tuesday night against the Islanders. Carl Gunnarsson continues to recover from an upper-body injury suffered on Saturday night against the Rangers. The results of an MRI won’t be known until tomorrow. But should Gunnarsson not play, look for Gleason to fill his spot alongside captain Dion Phaneuf.
"Glease has come in here and fit in very well and I’m very excited to play with him," Phaneuf said. "Just from practicing with him he moves the puck very well and is very experienced."
Meanwhile, Gunnarsson’s status remains day-to-day, pending results of the MRI.
David Clarkson continues to suffer from a deep bone bruise. While he had an initial X-ray after taking a puck to his left boot, the pain hasn’t subsided to the point that it’s getting a lot better. There was initial optimism that his foot was improving. On Monday he tried to skate on it, but 10 seconds later he came off the ice after realizing it just wasn’t going to happen. He’ll have a CT scan on the foot to see if there was something the initial X-ray didn’t pick up. For now he’s listed as day-to-day.
While Jonathan Bernier is coming off his fifth straight start, there’s some question as to if he deserves a sixth, which would be a first for him this season. While he couldn’t be the lone player to blame for the poor performance on Saturday, it appears as though Carlyle hasn’t made up his mind as to who will start in goal Tuesday.
"It has a little bit of cloudiness because of the last game," Carlyle said about who would start. "The performance in the last game, do we pin that on a bad game, ignore it and move on? Tomorrow we have to do that but today we think about and that influences your judgement. We will do the same thing, we’ll do the evaluation and ask if this player gives us the bench chance over the other player."
Leafs’ lines at Monday’s practice
Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Raymond – Kadri – Lupul
D’Amigo – McClement – Kulemin
McLaren – Holland – Orr
Gleason – Phaneuf
Gardiner – Franson
Ranger – Rielly