Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri embracing supporting role

Brian Burke recalls the conversation he had with Kadri's dad after drafting him. Kadri Sr. told Burke to swat Nazem in the head if he gives him any trouble. The Leafs forward laughed it off saying Burke and his dad were two peas in a pod.

Nazem Kadri has played a number of different roles during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, from young star to shutdown centre, pest to scoring leader.

Now, the 28-year-old is adjusting to another role as a supporting piece on one of the league’s deepest offences.

Head coach Mike Babcock has the fun task of balancing every role, and with the arrival of John Tavares and the emergence of Auston Matthews, that has Kadri shifted to third-line centre and ranking sixth among Leafs forward in average ice time per game.

Kadri joined Hockey Central at Noon on Friday and explained how he’s embracing it.

“I’m open to getting the puck always. I’m always ready for it,” said Kadri. “But I also do trust the guys that have the puck, and I understand that I’ve got to find those soft spots and I’m going to get the puck eventually.”

The forward is coming off back-to-back 32-goal seasons, but has gotten off to a slow start in 2018-19 having finally scored his first goal of the season Wednesday night against the Jets. All part of the adjustment.

Part of embracing his role is understanding his coach’s reasoning for it.

“As an impact player, you always want to be on the ice at important situations and I think that [Mike Babcock] trusts me in that role,” he said. “But when you do have the depth that we have, I think it’s important not to run a couple of guys out of the building in terms of playing too many minutes early on in the season.

“You look at a guy like Connor McDavid playing an insane amount as a forward, I mean you can’t keep that up in February and March and still have that high of an impact,” he continued. “I think, in terms of depth and playing deep into the playoffs, this system’s going to work for us. But especially when we’re killing some penalties, it’s tough to get a bit of a rhythm but Babs, I think, is adjusting and doing a good enough job of putting me on the wing in certain situations. At least we’re trying.”

Listen to the full interview:

Maple Leafs’ Kadri not frustrated by lack of offensive touches
October 26 2018

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