Maple Leafs Thoughts: March 3, 2013

Nazem Kadri has proven his critics wrong this season. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
Nazem Kadri has proven his critics wrong this season. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Nazem Kadri: Their Best Player

Without a doubt, Nazem Kadri has been the best player for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. All this, after struggling to stay in the lineup just a year ago.

The former seventh overall pick of the 2009 NHL entry draft leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with 21 points. Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders saw his best performance. Kadri netted a hat trick, in which two of the goals were highlight reel material. Every time he touched the puck, something good happened. Joe Bowen labelled the night “a coming out party” for the 22 year old.

There were times last season when it seemed like Kadri would never make it in the NHL. His offensive talent was there, but everything else in his game seemed to be missing. Ron Wilson was head coach at the time, and he said that said that the“nasty habits” are the reason as to why Kadri can’t play in the NHL. Unless he was willing to fix them, the AHL would probably be his abode.

Clearly, those “nasty habits” have been put to bed. Kadri is a much better player along the boards, he has an edge to his game, and has gained some defensive awareness on the other side of the puck. But sometimes the “nasty habits” wake up, according to head coach Randy Carlyle. That is the reason as to why Kadri only averages 15:08 minutes of ice time per game. Surprising, considering how much offensive production the Leafs have received from him.

James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail tweeted a quote from Carlyle’s media scrum today: “I can show you ample amount of tape where you’d like him to make a better decision in that situation.”

The worst part of Kadri’s game is in the face-off circle. He is 99th in face#off winning percentage with 43.3% amongst centers in the league.

Jame Reimer Struggles in Return

James Reimer returned to the net Thursday night after missing nine games with a MCL injury. He fought the puck for most of the night, allowing four Islander goals on 27 shots. Reimer was credited with the win after the Leafs were victorious in overtime.

The Leafs now have a little bit of a goaltending controversy. Ben Scrivens did a tremendous job filling for Reimer in his absence. He is eighth in the league for save percentage with .923.

Coach Carlyle said he would label his two goalies “1 and 1A.” The tender that plays well in his opportunity will be given the chance to run away with the starting job. It will be interesting to see who the Leafs start Monday night against the New Jersey Devils.

Roster Decisions Looming

The injury reserves are starting to heal.

Matt Frattin has missed the last nine games with a MCL sprain and is close to returning to the lineup. He participated in his first full practice today with the team on a line with Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur.

The Leafs are at the roster maximum of 23 players and general manager Dave Nonis confirmed today to James Mirtle that the team would have to initiate a roster move to clear space for Frattin.

The easiest decision would be to assign defenseman Korbinian Holzer to the Toronto Marlies. He is one of the few players on the team that does not require waivers to be sent down to the American Hockey League. Holzer assumed his position alongside Dion Phaneuf at Leafs practice today, so one shouldn’t easily conclude that Holzer will be the odd man out.

The Leafs have two defensemen who have been sitting in the press box for quite a while. John-Michael Liles has sat out the last six games and Mike Komisarek has not played since January 26th. Both have been sidelined as healthy scratches and are involved in all sorts of rumours around the league.

Joffrey Lupul skated for a short time today, recovering from a broken forearm injury. March 6th will have marked six weeks since the injury, with about two more weeks left on the sideline.

Other Maple Leafs Thoughts

Adrian Dater out of Colorado tweeted yesterday that former Maple Leafs goaltender J.S. Giguere’s mother has passed away in Montreal. My condolences to him and his family in this tough time.

Phaneuf made a good decision to not fight Brandon Prust Wednesday night during a particular situation. Prust challenged him in the middle of a five minute penalty kill for the Leafs, and he kept his team from entering the offensive zone for about 30 seconds by dilly-dallying with Phaneuf. Prust dropped his glove, shouldn’t that have been a penalty?

The Leafs have had some trouble clearing the zone the last few games. Might be a good idea to get John-Michael Liles back in the lineup.

Jake Gardiner doesn’t belong in the AHL. How he isn’t playing on the Leafs boggles the mind.

Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus) and Korbinian Holzer (Germany) will not be representing their team in Sochi next year for the 2014 Olympics. Both countries failed to qualify for the tournament.

The Maple Leafs not playing on Hockey Night in Canada this past Saturday is kind of sacrilegious.

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