Nazem Kadri remains optimistic despite drought

Nazem Kadri talks before the Maple Leafs' game against the Canucks about needing a lucky bounce to go his way, and how he feels about his all-around game.

TORONTO — While Wayne Gretzky’s famous saying is, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take,” lately Nazem Kadri has been missing 100 per cent of the shots he has taken.

Kadri has gone 15 games without a goal, but the Toronto Maple Leafs centre hasn’t been afraid to shoot the puck. He’s averaging over four a game, and his 81 on the season trail only Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.

His shooting percentage of 1.2 is the lowest in the league among players who have taken at least 50 shots. Because the law of averages is on his side, Kadri is trying not to get frustrated.

“I’d be a little more frustrated if I wasn’t getting the chances and the opportunities and it was a little bit tougher for me to get shots on nets,” Kadri said. “If I keep getting pucks to the net, good things are going to happen.”

His coach certainly thinks so. Mike Babcock has been praising Kadri almost non-stop this season, despite the lack of production.

“This is my two cents on Naz: He’s been, in my opinion, the best forward on our team,” Babcock said. “He competes every night, he’s in on all the chances, he generates a ton. He’s a way better player than I expected.”

The basic stats say Kadri has been a below-average offensive player this season. He has only a goal and six assists in 19 games. But Kadri has been creating scoring chances and is among the best players in the league at drawing penalties.

So Kadri is remaining optimistic.

“We’re finding ways to win, I’m finding other ways to contribute,” he said. “My all-around game I think has been at a different level, and I’m just getting a lot of encouragement and support from the coaching staff and my teammates. I want to be responsible out there. That’s No. 1 for me, and the goals will come second.”

Kadri doesn’t remember getting this volume of quality chances in years, so there’s reason to believe he’ll break out of it. Whether that comes Friday when the Leafs visit the Carolina Hurricanes remains to be seen.

Babcock knows Kadri will get there, both with scoring and his career.

“In the end if he keeps working hard, he’ll find a way to score,” Babcock said. “In a hundred-mile journey, he’s on mile 25. He’s going to get way better as long as he competes. If he wants to be good, he’s going to be good.”

Even though this is Kadri’s fourth full NHL season, he’s only 25. And he’s also in a big season on a one-year contract with restricted free agency looming again this summer.

Amid all that and the scrutiny of not scoring, Kadri is preaching patience for himself. When he was stopped on the doorstep on two straight shifts the other night, he simply tipped his hat to a hot goaltender.

But once the next goal comes, Kadri will feel a weight off his shoulders.

“I like scoring goals as much as the next guy,” Kadri said. “Just lots of relief, and hopefully it’s coming soon.”

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