So many times this season, the Leafs’ success has been tied to energy – or lack of. So, after an incredibly disappointing effort v. Tampa Bay on Monday night, and after Colby Armstrong’s season was likely ended by a broken foot in the same game, the Leafs have called Nazem Kadri up from the Marlies. In 44 games this season with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, Kadri had 17 goals, 41 points. But that’s irrelevant now. The big question is: What will Kadri add to this Leafs’ line-up…and will his presence add some lightning and fire to the club in its late-season playoff push?
That loss against high-scoring Tampa Bay may very well have been a back-breaker for Toronto. It allowed the pathetic New Jersey Devils to climb into a tenth-place, Eastern Conference tie with Toronto. But, because the Devils have four more non-shootout wins than the Leafs, Toronto would have to climb past them completely in the standings. And past Carolina. And past Buffalo. And stay ahead of Atlanta. Not gonna be easy, folks.
Major concern now swirls around James Reimer. Was Monday an anomaly in his game, or is the kid tired and starting to show cracks in his game? To my eye, it looks like opposition players have begun to figure out that a shot high to Reimer’s glove side is a good idea. Frankly, he seems to be sliding into the Jonas Gustavsson "Make yourself big and the puck just might hit you" trap. Movement is required, Mr. Reimer. Let’s hope Monday was a one-off and that he’ll be sharp as a tack in Carolina on Wednesday.
What will Kadri add to the Leafs’ line-up? Well, unless he plays a hell of a lot better than he did in his 17-game stint earlier this season, nothing. In those 17 games, the youngster scored six points, earned a -4 rating and suffered fans’ wrath. It was a tough spot to put Kadri in. But, keep this in mind, Dale Hunter’s junior program in London does not produce well-rounded players. They can score at will, but do little else. Hopefully, Kadri has learned a little bit about backchecking and not trying to do it all himself under Dallas Eakins’ tutelage with the Marlies.
My biggest concern about Kadri is the way he responded to the pressure earlier this year. He didn’t. His game did not step up. He did not exhibit an “I’ll show you” attitude. And he scored zero goals in his time with the Leafs. You’d think, in that time, one might have simply gone in off his head, right Grabo?
But, obviously, the big hope is that Kadri’s game has elevated a level (or three) with the Marlies, and that his mere presence will provide energy for a team that is struggling for its playoff life. We’ll find out tonight in Carolina.