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On needing to see more from Gardiner and Kadri…

Young players, especially young players with eye-popping offensive skills, are always the subject of much discussion, especially in the Toronto market. They typically leave impatient fans wanting more.  Yet we always have to remind ourselves that it usually takes time for most NHLers—even the gifted ones—to become solid all-around NHLers, players their coaches can trust.

Plenty of words have been shared about Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner in this space over the years, and rightfully so. In each their own way, they are highly talented performers.  Gardiner can skate all night and moves with such ease, while Kadri has those hands and uncanny hockey instincts that help him find seams and empty spots on the ice—either for himself, or in finding open teammates.

Both are only 23, and still a long way away from being what they might be capable of becoming as professionals.  Gardiner in particular, as a defensemen, needs more game action before we can make any declarations about his supposed ceiling.  It’s easy to say he is skilled, which he so obviously is, but is there a lot more in that cupboard?  Can he be more than tantalizing “potential”?

Last season, I thought Kadri, many nights, was the most dangerous Leaf on the ice. Kessel, of course, is an almost constant threat but I thought Kadri was right there with him.  He made his wingers—regardless of who he played with—a lot better in 2012-'13.

Yet this season, while the former London Knight’s offensive numbers are fine (pretty good, in fact), I just don’t have the same feeling when I watch him play.  He still has that nasty streak (on the edge I like, over the edge—like when he takes liberties with opposing players—I don’t) and can be a very determined player, but when I watch him I don’t feel we are always getting the 200 foot player we need to see all the time.

As for Gardiner, again, his “numbers” are fine.  He’s something like a minus 4 (I think Kadri is minus 9), which is OK.  There is a lot more to assessing someone’s game than their plus/minus stats.

But I guess I was expecting something a bit more from Gardiner this season by now.  Offensively he has put up some points, but it’s his still lacking (at least in my mind) defensive game that confounds me.  Yes he can skate like the wind and he can move the puck—traits that are very important for any defenseman.  Plenty of defenseman don’t skate particularly well or move the puck with authority.

But when it comes to other parts of his game—skating in wide circles when he needs to stop and be hard on the play, or how he matches up against physical forwards on the forecheck—I’m not sure he has progressed enough.

Some of that is simply, I’m sure, a question of time and experience.  But I also sense that I’m seeing, as with Kadri, a bit of an attitude that, “this is how I play; take it or leave it”.

Let me add something:  I can’t break down the Leafs’ defensive issues (possession, shots on goal against, giveaways, etc.) like the technical experts can.  Those trained observers can do that beautifully for us.

I just know that if Phaneuf is playing as well as everyone says he is (and I’m among those who find little fault in a guy who plays about 25 minutes a night against the other team’s best forwards and is a plus 20) and Rielly is a phenom, then someone must not be doing their job, right?

If we are giving the puck away in our own zone, if we are giving up so many shots and way too many quality scoring opportunities for the other side, who is not doing their job along our blueline?  (It’s like when I hear NBA guys talk and say, “we have to work harder out there”.  Well, there’s only five guys on the floor at one time and maybe eight who play any real minutes most nights.  So let’s be specific: do you mean you have to work harder, or that the other seven guys have to?)

For me, it’s the same issue here.  If Phaneuf is playing at an elite level, and Gunnarsson is not completely dragging him down, and Rielly is having a fantastic rookie season, then where is the issue?  Is it all Franson? Aren’t we all happy with Tim Gleason?

So where indeed does Gardiner fit in this discussion?

As I mentioned in a recent post, it’s not just on our defensemen.  Forwards are a major part of “team defense”.  That’s always been the case in hockey. Thus my mention of Kadri who, as the second-line center, has a dual role of putting up points but also preventing some pretty good players on the other team from scoring on any given night.

Hey, the Leafs are still in very good shape when it comes to the current standings and the playoff picture.  There’s zero reason they can’t continue to put up points in the standings and as I keep saying, make noise in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. 

But unless a lot of observers are just flat out wrong, can this team sustain their current placement if they keep struggling with the simple notion of “defensive hockey” and whatever system Carlyle is asking them to play? They aren’t being asked to split the atom (to be honest, I don't even know what an atom is, or if they can be split, but the reference has been around seemingly forever…), after all, just play good, solid defense.

And from my perspective, if we are going to look for individual improvement, it strikes me as fair to suggest that two of our 'young veterans', Kadri and Gardiner, are two of the Leafs that need to play with more commitment and determination as the hockey gets serious the rest of the regular season and then into the playoffs.

Of course it’s a team game, and everyone on this roster, well beyond Kadri and Gardiner, need to do their job consistently if the Leafs look to be serious players in the Conference. (Yes, I can name much more experienced players who we need to see more from, like Clarkson, but that’s a post for another day.)

Maybe my standards for and expectations of these two whiz kids are unfairly high.  I don’t know.  As I write this, the trade deadline is hours away. I’m hardly thinking that they will be traded—or should be.

But I believe they have more to give, and it’s not all about their supposedly crappy and out of touch coach.  Unless Gardiner is going to become (and he might, who knows?) Scott Niedermayer, Ray Bourque or Paul Coffey, then he needs to be better at the things defensemen need to be good at.

If Kadri wants to get paid the star money that he thinks he deserves, then we need to see him be a difference-maker almost every night—at both ends of the ice.


With talent comes, fair nor not, high expectations.  There is still plenty of time for these youngsters, but in today’s NHL, the clock is already slowly ticking….

34 comments:

  1. Kadri and Clarkson, the problem is related. Clarkson doesn't seem to mesh well with Lupul and Kadri...yet they keep trying to force it.

    Last night was a perfect example. Clarkson gets over 15 minutes and no shots. You can't have that with a 2nd line winger. Mason Raymond comes on for a couple shifts with Lupul and Kadri and they soon get a goal with the assist going to Lupul and Reilly. In the recent past, when they pushed up Kulemin to the 2nd line, Kadri and Lupul got going again.

    Why can't they just play Clarkson on the third line and run a top nine with some talent spread across three good lines?

    Gardiner? I think I would let him sit some games. Take a shot accross his bow. It has worked in the past.

    They do have a very nice option. Petter Granberg is a young defensive machine.

    His nickname with Marlies? RoboCop; TJ Brennan says: "He’s just a machine. Guys hate going against him in practice."

    He is up to +18 with the Marlies. He is leading the team, the next closest is Spencer Abbott at +13.

    I checked and many of last year's AHL plus minus leaders got promoted and are doing well in the NHL this year: Radko Gudas, Eric Gryba, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nick Holden.

    Why not sit Gardiner or Ranger and bring up Granberg for a midweek game, especially against a defensive team like Columbus?

    I'm even more worried that they will trade Granberg to another team for some aging veteran and Granberg will quickly become a top 4 somewhere else.




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    1. I respect your views on these matters DP and you have mentioned Granberg here before. I have not seen him enough personally to make a useful comment, but based on a number of reports I have seen, he does appear to be a legitimate prospect with a nice ceiling.

      It sounds as though you agree that Gardiner needs to show more than he has at times.

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  2. Michael,

    I was hoping that you would put up a post today, thank you for whetting my Leaf discussion appetite for today. Great post, thoughtful as ever.

    There are a couple of directions I would like to expand upon in your thoughts. The first one is my least favourite topic in sports, potential. That is what we are forever talking about, for the majority of the situations we try to analyze. It is why I loathe talking about prospects, to me, until you do it in the NHL against the men, you haven't done it. Do Gardiner and Kadri make the most of their potential as NHL'ers, and are they able to accomplish those aspirations with the Leafs? If this is the most that they are ever going to be, you trade them right now. Let some other organization watch their careers flounder, after they gave up a king's ransom to acquire them. If on the other hand, they are superstars in the making, you keep them and nourish their abilities. This is a brutally hard question for fans, we want so badly for these guys to succeed in our favourite teams colours. Is Kadri the spoiled, lazy, entitled player he is portrayed as? Or is he a moment away from figuring it all out, and becoming a true NHL star? How thrilled are Leaf fans that we got JVR away from Philly for Schenn? If the roles were reversed, I'm pretty sure we would greatly lament that trade.

    One of my biggest complaints about fans of the teams I follow is that it seems so little is said about them when they aren't playing well. Especially constructive things, I personally would love to talk about the differences between what other organizations do compared to the Leafs. The same can be said about the players. We are always eager to say how great Phil Kessel is, or Dion, we forget that there is still room for improvement. It's my opinion that a lot of Leafs feel that their game, is their game and they aren't too interested in changing it a whole lot. It is a theme I have commented on for a long time here. I see almost no improvement in the areas that the management team has trouble shutting up about. I don't see this group as different from the one that Ron Wilson coached. They play almost exactly the same despite the change in coaches, and the different lineup on the third and fourth line.

    Part of my criticisms for the team can be laid solely at the feet of our most talented player. I see very little willingness on Kessel's part to do the small things defensively to help his team, and more importantly his team mates. They certainly must see the same things, and I'm sure the attitude of he doesn't do it, why should I, is there to a degree.

    I will end on this point, having our young talent end up as 50-60 point forwards, or bottom pair d'men that occasionally shine, isn't really the reason they were drafted, or acquired, is it? This franchise needs superior players to take a run at the Cup. I fear that they don't really have any in the wings, or on the team, other than Kessel and Rielly, that is.

    Since you mentioned a playoff run. Looking at the Leafs schedule for the remainder of the season, and watching every poorly played game this season. It is this man's opinion that the Leafs miss the playoffs entirely. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they tie for points, but miss because of fewer ROW.

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    1. The comments in your first paragraph break things down nicely, Jim. It's so difficult to make the "right" determination. Are these stars in waiting, or guys who will never be more than tantalizing potential with some nice games thrown in here and there? (The Leafs are not alone in this regard- I was listening to Sabres media recently people talk about ex-Canuck Cody Hodgson. So much promise and relatively little production, based on the comments I heard. It seems like the fans and the organization expected more, though he too is very young still.)

      We are at times reluctant, it seems, to be objective in our assessment of Toronto players. Kessel is a spectacularly exciting offensive player, but despite apparent efforts to improve the lesser parts of his game, let's be honest, he has deficiencies. (That said, if you score 40+ goals, fans tend to not worry too much about such issues.)

      This is part of the reason why I raise things as I did today. If Phaneuf is great, Rielly is outstanding, Gardiner is so talented, Gunner is steady, then why exactly are we struggling in our own zone? It's fair to ask these questions, even when the team is winning games.

      That's an interesting prediction in your final statement, Jim- but I know you don't make it lightly. Thanks for posting.

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  3. "If Phaneuf is great, Rielly is outstanding, Gardiner is so talented, Gunner is steady, then why exactly are we struggling in our own zone?"

    Because Franson and Reilly are a combined -27 add in Gardiner's -4 Ranger' -6 and your have -37.

    You can't sugar coat it. These guys are not playing a good defensive game. You see the stats unfold before you play by play. Soft in the corners, risky plays, give aways, bad choices....though they are slowly getting better with the arrival of Gleason.

    Phaneuf and Gunnarson's plus 36 is the thing that makes it close to zero or normal.

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  4. It's hard to know what's up with Gardiner. He seems to make less mistakes when the Leafs are skating well. But then, when they are skating there is less time spent in their own zone. These dangerous, sudden spin-a-ramas in front of the net, and chasing opponents until he's completely out of position make it very hard for team-mates to know what to do. Everyone starts scrambling, trying to figure out whether to stay where they are or move to where Jake was supposed to be but isn't. He tries so hard to do too much. Never a lack of effort, I think we can see that.

    I would like Nazem to put a sign up with his Dad's statement--" If you're not scoring find another way to get involved in the game." When he does that, we see a better player. I think he has improved in some ways especially face-offs and he is still putting up points. The second line is much better when Kulemin is on it and I think Kadri would benefit by staying with the same line-mates as much as possible. The second line has been switched around unnecessarily too many times to help another player " find their game" . I understand that. I don't understand why that is more important than concentrating on Kadri's development. He may not have a big contract but he is obviously very talented and if he is expected to become part of the core group I think it is in the Leafs best interest to give him every chance to succeed. The second year is often hard with more responsibilities and higher expectations, so why make it harder? Thanks Michael.

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    1. Changing line mates constantly can obviously be difficult. But Kadri played with a lot of different guys last year, and as I noted in my post, I felt that, most of the time, he made his linemates better.

      My concern with him is probably more on the defensive side of his game and his play away from the puck in that regard. I agree that when he does those other things you refer to, his game is stronger. I would argue that doing those other things leads to scoring opportunities.

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  5. Hi Michael
    Great post as always. I would agree with Jim when he says that potential is just that; potential. Until it can be achieved at the NHL level we can dream about how good a player may become. In fact often enough we have seen in the past, how players are one year wonders and sometimes have a few good years early in their careers never to regain form ever again.

    To be patient with what you have or to roll the dice and make a trade is the magic question we hope to have the answer to. Subsequently if we are seeing improvements with the players then we should hold onto them. With regards to Gardiner we may be seeing him regress this year however as you said Michael that dmen need more time to develop. So it comes down to plunging at the opportunity of making a trade when it presents itself. A few years ago the Leafs had a chance to acquire Chris Pronger who wanted out of Edmonton and would have come to Toronto but the Leafs were not willing on parting with Steen. Instead they offered Stajan or Wellwood instead along with Kaberle and a draft pick. The deal as we know was made with Anaheim and they won the cup. Interestingly enough the Leafs traded Steen and another 'potential' promising defencemen Coliacavo for Stempniak. We all know how that turned out.

    Sometimes for whatever reason players need a change in scenery and blossam elsewhere. Steve Sullivan, Jason Smith, come to mind. But then other times players simply don't pan out to their potential. We just need to look at all the first round draft picks and see over half not having an effective career in the NHL as top end players.

    If the style of team that Nonis and Carlyle are trying to build, defence oriented and offence primarily created through forchecking then it may not be best suited the kind of players Gardiner and for that matter Kadri are and may end up being. Both players are highly skilled at stick handling, passing, and circling with the puck, with Gardiner excelling at skating as well. I think having Reilly already in the lineup, he has a similar toolset that Gardiner has to offer and may be more likely to be traded than Kadri perhaps.

    On a side note, Brenan has offensively been very impressive with the Marlies. I am surprised why he has not been given a look with the big club. That would make Gardiner even more expendable should Brennan fill the roll as efficiently.

    We often say this teams needs a veteren leader to bring stability especially for the playoffs. If Ryan Kesler and Edler are available in Vancouver, then having missed out on the Rick Nash sweepstakes a few years ago and as mentioned Pronger before that.; I hope we can look at the potential that Gardiner and Kadri possess as just being that; potential. And not let that be the reason we fail an attempt to make a trade that would make us better both short term and long term.

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  6. You've raised a number of excellent points and I'll just reference two, BlueANDwhite: if Carlyle is the Leafs' "long term" coach, then yes, trades you make may hinge on who the coach is. As in, if certain players (like Grabbo and MacArthur) don't "fit", they leave.

    But the jury seems to be out (it certainly is in Leafland) when it comes to Carlyle. I have no idea what Nonis is thinking. Most of us thought this roster was built for the coach. The results have been good, standings-wise, but don't always inspire confidence that this can be maintained.

    As for trading for solid veterans- I know Leaf fans always raise that we traded away too many good young players in the past, but when I look back at the Quinn years for example, who (young players, prospects and draft choices) did we really trade away that went on to be a star elsewhere? Yet we sometimes acquired good pieces that almost helped us get to the finals- which is the idea, after all. It's not just about constantly building with kids and more kids for some never-to-be-achieved future success.

    So I understand both sides of the discussion: Nonis can stay with the program, not deal any of the kids, and hope he can add pieces every summer that make the ultimate difference. But sometimes you have to be bold, too. I'm glad I don't have that job. Thanks BlueANDwhite.

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  7. I almost think Franson is the one to trade.

    He is among the worst with plus minus and is the oldest, so he is most unlikely to change and burn the Leafs by finally realizing his potential.

    Sure, Franson has that great quick shot but Brennan's shot is probably as good. Brenan has already exceeded Franson's best AHL point production in a year.

    Franson also has only one more year of RFA status. So the Leafs will soon have to pay more... and Franson has been difficult in contract negotiations.

    Trade Franson for a defensive d-man so that Gardiner and Reilly each have someone steady to play with. Have Brennan as your 7th d-man for his shot as a quasi power play specialist.


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  8. I like DP's recommendation, makes sense to me.

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  9. I get the feeling that Ron Wilson could have had the same success as Randy Carlyle because the Leafs are still playing similar to the way they played under Ron Wilson. The team is similar, but they just have better goaltending. If Bernier would have been here in 2011-2012 wouldn't they have made the playoffs that year and not fallen off the 18 wheeler?

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    1. There definitely seems to be an undercurrent of feeling, Eli, that as you note, the Leafs may be in the same situation under their old coach.

      It's hard to know for sure, of course, but the only way Carlyle may convince his doubters is if his squad can really play impressive hockey over the next two months.

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  10. For me it is hard to separate how these young players are performing from the coaches that should be mentoring them.
    But it isn’t just the young players that are having problems. It seems as though whatever system the players are being asked to play does not produce the defensive results needed, if we use shots against as a measure of success or failure. So is it the players or the system? Is it the coaching staff unable to either coax or teach the players to play the system?
    I ask myself whether Mike Babcock if he was coach of these players if they would be so consistently badly outshot? Or would this team be outworked as they are on occasion if Ted Nolan was their coach? And if the system the current coaches are using is just not giving the results needed, have they adapted their system, or do they just keep going back to the same well?
    If the Leafs don’t make the playoffs then Carlyle is gone. Even if they squeak into the playoffs and don’t have a good first round then I think he’s gone. And the reason won’t be the results per se, but because Carlyle would not have been able to get the players to play his system effectively.

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  11. As I write, the trade deadline has passed and Leafs stood pat. Honestly, I'm not sure what else they could've done, but it always astonishes me when a GM says there's no way we'll contend for the Cup - but we didn't make a move anyway. Ah well... memories of when Pat Quinn was referred to as "Stand Pat".
    I think the disappointing thing about both Kadri and Gardiner this year is the apparent lack of progress. Gardiner still coughs up the puck, one way or another, many times a game. Kadri has just seemed at sea this year - it looked like he and Lupul were finding their old chemistry just before the break, but it's gone for now. No-one denies their talent - or "potential" quotient - but why must we be expected to give them - or any player, for that matter - a "pass" while they develop? Isn't that what the Marlies are for?
    All year I've had difficulty determining if my Leaf glass is half full or half empty, and it's because of the maddening and frustrating inconsistency of players like Kadri and Gardiner who looked like they were finally figuring it out last spring.
    I suppose it could be worse - I could be a Senators fan.

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    1. I sense a lot of Leaf fans were OK with Nonis keeping what he has at the deadline, but I do wonder how there was no way to improve the roster for the playoffs, Gerund. The price for some guys was minimal. A year from now fans should expect more than talking about how young the roster still is.

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  12. At the end of the day, one of the ways coaches are judged is whether they got the most out of all of the players on the roster the GM gave them. In this regard, a case can be made that Carlyle's results are certainly a mixed bag. You cite two coaches who are respected because they seem to relate well to players and also get the best out of them. It's fair to ask if Carlyle is doing that. Thanks Steve.

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  13. Almost predictable, Kulemin comes back with Kadi and Lupul and they look like a second line again.

    Kadri gets a goal , +1 and 4 shots. Kulemin gets an assist, +1 and 3 shots. Lupul goes pointless, but gets 3 shots, 4 hits, 2 blocked shots and +1.

    Why can't they leave that line intact?

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  14. I'm glad Nonis didn't make a move. It would really suck if we were to trade Kadri or Gardiner or even Franson before we see what they can do in the playoffs. I remember watching them last year - Gardiner and Franson looked huge out there against the Bruins - Gardiner was burning them with his speed and Franson was hitting them hard, winning battles on the boards etc. Kadri was not as impressive but he was contributing too and trying hard, battling for sure.

    Carlyle too, I think, has earned the chance to run with it. If his 'system' works for the first line and the first pairing (and it does), then it should work for the others as well - it's not the system - it's the inexperienced players that are just not used to having 'good habits' - they are really young and still learning.

    This is the group and this is the coach that took us to the playoffs for the first time since Sundin. They deserve our support. They are so young but they are learning and growing and just may have that fine balance of chemistry and team-spirit that is required to go all the way. What I really like about this team is the modesty they all display - there's a real 'blue-collar' ethic at work here - there are no 'prima donnas' and cliques, our superstar is an anti-star and doesn't want anything to do with stardom. When everyone does their little part we win. I'm excited about the playoffs. I think we have a really good chance this year. I think we'll get close.

    At this point I don't think it's possible to tell what Kadri's and Gardiner's ceiling is and they are well on their way to the second consecutive playoffs appearance. Let's see how they do. If they crash and burn there's always summer to try adding the veterans route although I'd probably give them yet another year. There's value in keeping the young group together. It's a 'team' game. They're so young.

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  15. I really liked Kulemin's game last night. It's obvious that this line shouldn't be messed with. I hope he's signed again in the summer. Phil Esposito once said that before he would even look at a player he would check first to see who his agent was. There were some he would never deal with. Kulemin has the same agent as Grabovski. I think if we lose Kuli in the summer, Ashton may be able to fill that role.

    Other than the gaffs on the powerplay the Leafs played with a lot of energy which I suspect had something to do with the trade dead-line passing. I liked the third line with Raymond, Holland and Clarkson. Bodie, McClement, Ashton was so much better. It worries me that McLaren and Orr are still options but I was relieved to see that Smith cleared waivers. I still long for the day when we can see what some of our young talent can do with more minutes on better lines. C.N.

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  16. On further thought I totally goofed! With seven Dmen, Ashton sat out the game. C

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    1. Happens to me on a regular basis, C.N.- we are so intent watching but sometimes we miss things, especially a player who is in and out of the line-up or plays modest minutes.

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  17. Hi Michael,

    As a Leafs fan for almost 30 Years, I don't recall a season where I have been so frustrated. As bad as they have been in the past, I have not seen a team so inept in their zone and lack any compete level. Watching the Habs game last night after the Leafs fortunate win made me realize how much attitude and will is missing from the Leafs. Brandon Gallagher plays a game that Clarkson and the rest of the Leafs can only dream about. Kadri is significantly better skill wise but doesn't always show up. If he plays with the same passion that we've seen glimpses of in the past and at a level that Gallagher or that hated Marchand displays almost every game, he would be that much closer to being one of the best. The question is why does he not?

    When Gardner first came up, his speed and decision making were beyond his years. He has not only regress but has been a liability night in night out. It has been rare to see a game in which he has been mistakes free. His play has been to a point that he actually look a lot slower out there because of poor positioning and lack of compete level for the puck. It's baffling and frustrating seeing this on a regular basis and this is not just from him. Half of this team has the same attitude

    I don't know what happen to this team but this is not the same team last year defensively and on paper, they should be a lot better given the additional year of experience. Practically all returning player in my view has played worst defensively. Our standing can only be attributed to 2 things: Goaltending and career years from the 3 guys on the 1st line. Those 5 guys IMO has carried this team. What that tells me is this team cannot or will not play the system that Carlyle is implementing. The structure play of last year is gone. The Collapsing or Swarm system does not work when you still looses puck battle while outmaning the other team and when you do which is often, the open guy is in prime scoring position. That to me is the lack of will and compete level and not because of talent or physical attributes alone. When I see that, I question the leadership booth in the room and on the bench.

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    1. You've touched on a word that VLM readers know is important to me in assessing good hockey teams: will. Do these Leafs have the "will" to win the battles you absolutely have to win more often than not to advance in the playoffs.

      Skill matters. Systems and good coaching matter. Great goaltending is essential. But for the Leafs to win when it matters, they have to be willing to fight through tough checking to make plays- and also be willing to work their tail off to prevent the opposition from making plays. Great post, thanks Lukas.

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  18. leafsdiaries.comMarch 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    As it stands now, Kadri is set to become a perennial 50-point scorer in the NHL. For him to grow and become that 70-point scorer we all want (or maybe even more), it's all in his feet. Kadri can fly, but it's nowhere near the instant speed of Phil Kessel. James Van Riemsdyk, while not as fast as Kessel, can use his size as leverage to gain separation before he hits his stride.

    Kadri is nowhere near as fast as Kessel, and nowhere near as big as JVR -- making backcheckers and checkers catching up to him and all-too-common occurrence.

    For Kadri to reach the next level, he needs to be stronger in his upper body and be deceptive on the ice. Because he can't overly rely on his speed or size.

    I believe in him. And I believe his improved defense has often contributed to his offence.

    Antoni

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    1. Kadri is a very crafty player who knows where to be on the ice and how to find the open man. Yes he has made strides in his overall game and I'm sure that will continue. He simply needs to apply himself on a more consistent basis, in my view. Players with his instincts inevitably have ing, productive careers. Thanks Antoni - and a nod to your continuing great work at leafdiaries.com

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    2. leafsdiaries.comMarch 7, 2014 at 3:13 AM

      Thanks a lot Michael.
      "Instincts". A great way to describe Nazem.

      One last note, his overreliance on the toe-drag needs to stop lol.
      Great post altogether.

      Antoni

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  19. Your laugh for the day:

    Upon getting to Russia, Leo was proud to play for Dynamo Moscow, but he wasn't letting go of the season prior. Much like you'll see NHL players wear merch from other pro sports teams from time to time, Komarov opted to wear Leafs gear in all sorts of situations...

    "So, in response, Dynamo Moscow told their players that NHL merchandise was not to be worn from this point on. This would solve the issue, if this story wasn't about one of the great hockey trolls of our time. Komarov's internal response? "Hey, I also played for the Toronto Marlies..."

    "...Not only was Komarov wearing his old [Marlies] gear, he was passing it along to teammates."

    You can read the whole funny story here:

    http://theleafsnation.com/2014/3/6/the-komarov-rule

    Seems like Komorov really did like the Leafs, maybe he could come back.

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    1. He'd be a difference-maker for this club, DP. Hard to play against, a bit nasty- some of the ingredients we are missing at times.

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  20. Afternoon Michael,

    I think I am slightly confused and disappointed by/in Dave Nonis.

    If as he stated yesterday - believes that this team is not a contender then I believe he should have traded some of the players that he has on expiring contracts and are unlikely to be resigned - I can think of Raymond, Kulimen, Franson and perhaps Gardiner. Although Reimer is also one of those - it would be foolhardy to trade him now - It either should have happened last summer with LA or another team - or now next summer or maybe even beyond.

    Raymond after a bounce back year - will most likely be priced out of this market especially since we are likely to resign Bolland - which I can't understand for the life of me - considering the kind of money he wants and the kind of injury he is trying to recover from - Even the best skater in the league took one year to recover fully - and dave bolland is far older, far diminished a skater, and has more miles and injuries already on him - not sure that is a safe or intelligent way to go - but it seems likely.

    Kulimen - will again be too expensive to keep and probably should have been to a team like the penguins who would have loved to have him and maybe get something decent in return for maybe a middling prospect and kulimen.

    Franson - is not showing himself well on anything other than the powerplay - and that doesn't bode well - I think Franson, along with Reimer - is an example of poor asset management by Nonis and company - If they didn't believe in these guys then they should have sold high on them- both had statistically best seasons.

    Gardiner and Carlyle are like oil and water - they just can't co-exist - End this debacle and make a trade when the value is still there.

    Kadri will get better patience is required - and a guy like kulimen - to easy the defensive burden - lupul does not help in that department.

    Best players this year are: Kessel, JVR and Bernier.

    Contrary to most people's sentiments - Dion Phanuef is not having is best season - at least offensively (that was 2011-12) and defensively - I feel last year after the kostka and holzer experiments - he was better defensively last year than this.

    Anon from Scarborough

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    1. My instances suggest, Scarborough Anon, that Nonis believes he can 'get by' with his current roster for this season- meaning he will accept middlish results if that is the outcome this spring.

      That said, I also sense he believes he will be able to make some moves this summer to bolster the roster and be a more complete (elite?) team in 2014-'15. Whether that's realistic or not, I don't know.

      A young team is nice, but a team that is hard to play against and can compete for a championship is even better.

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  21. Well you called them out, and I would argue that they responded in the last game. Kadri played well and potted an overdue goal, and Gardiner showed off his offensive flair (though he wasn't rewarded), which hasn't been up to where some of us hoped (I recall your early post heralding a "break out" season from him). Nothing happened at the trade deadline, and I'm fine with that. The Leafs have don't have the cap space, and they need to hold onto the players they have, regardless as to whether they will be UFAs or not this summer. I'm glad management is sticking with a longer-term plan (it would be unrealistic to make a trade and for a cup run this year), and I hope they will continue to have a patience with Kadri and Gardiner. If/when they make the playoffs, we'll get a proper measure of their growth this year.

    A few posters here have mentioned Caryle and the coaching "system" not working as advertised (agreed), and, as you suggested, some are simply not pulling their weight defensively speaking. Good things happen when the Leafs D men are active in the offensive zone (the recent surge prior to the Olympics was due in no small part to a sudden resurgence in offense from the D), they just have problems in their own end..! So, when it comes time to make trades and re-sign players this summer, I hope Nonis and Co. are looking for a solid, defensive defenseman (or two) to balance the rovers like Gardiner and Rielly. Perhaps Franson and Ranger are the odd men out, but I know Carlyle wants right-handed D-men for the right side...

    PS: I've always liked him, but I think I'm becoming a real Bozak fan. All the compliments paid to him by coaches and teammates (he does all the "little things," he sees the ice well, he has a high "hockey IQ," etc.) are starting to ring true these days.

    Go Leafs!

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Matt. I think most readers understood that I was not suggesting the Leafs move Kadri or Gardiner, simply saying that while they are still young, it's reasonable to ask for a consistent commitment to defense.

      And yes, it's hard to argue that Bozak has not been a difference-maker. I hope to have more to say on that soon.

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