Nazem Kadri; no goals, a few assists and now a first line centre position. If the Leafs didn’t stink of desperation before, they reek of it now.
Don’t get me wrong, I have believe Kadri has what it takes to be the big time player one day, but to do it now is breaking with the plan I thought was laid out for him.
This year Kadri was supposed to be a complementary second line centre, playing with talent but not against the top defensive pairings every night. Even playing him on the wing took some of the light off him while on the top line. This move will put him in the sights of some of the bigger, stronger and dirtier players in the league. Watch and see the treatment this kid will get from Pronger in a few nights, it could be bad.
That is the most concerning part of the line as a whole: Kessel, Kadri and C-Mac. Good speed, one and a half snipers but no real muscle. This is there the Leafs have been having trouble all year, with no power forwards on the top line tough battles are being lost in the dirty areas. Neither C-Mac nor Kessel will be likely to win a fight in front of the net and no way will either of them be able to step in to defend Kadri from the bruisers when game gets gritty.
That being said, this line could be electric. Kadri has already shown he can be a wizard with the puck. Often when I see him drive down the boards and slam on the breaks I prepare myself for a loss of possession or dumb mistake as recent years have conditioned into me. Instead, he handles the puck confidently and creates space for himself and looks for a smart play. Once he recognizes that he cannot undress NHL players the same way he did in the OHL and starts dishing the puck off when in trouble things should improve.
Combine this with what should (eventually) be a fired up Kessel both drawing attention and finding lanes and a blazing fast, energetic C-Mac and you could see a #1 line out there.
If it doesn’t work out look for C-Mac back with Grabbo and Kulemin as this has been the top line all year long, regardless what order they are numbered in.