Toronto Maple Leafs: Why They Should Keep Nazem Kadri

Dec 3, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 3, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

In the midst of rumours linking Nazem Kadri to the St. Louis Blues, the Toronto Maple Leafs should consider holding on to the 25-year-old asset.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not had a true number one centre since the departure of Mats Sundin in 2008. Nazem Kadri has the pieces to become a first line centre, or at the very least a solid number two centre.

Related Story: Leafs: Nazem Kadri Linked to St. Louis Blues

True number one’s have the following qualities: first, they play against the top players of the other teams. Second, they are responsible for the puck heading towards their opponents net more than it come to theirs. Third, they win faceoffs. Fourth, they are near the top of their team in scoring, and fifth, they can play a physical game.

Kadri has shown that he can fulfill all five of those qualities, albeit he hasn’t consistently displayed them at the same time… yet.

He has started on the first line at centre more than any other player on the Leafs this year, so the majority of his production has come playing against the league’s top players. He is playing against stiffer competition, yet a lot of his numbers (especially his possession numbers) are higher than seasons past.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Oct 21, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

His Corsi statistic for this season is at 53.7 percent, over four points higher than his career average of 49.3 percent. Corsi is a measure indicating how many pucks are being directed at a particular opponents net versus their own net — a number higher than 50 percent suggests that the player spends more time in the offensive zone than the defensive zone.

Since he posted a Corsi of 45.6 percent in 2013-2014, Kadri is on his way to having his second consecutive season with a Corsi above 50 percent.

In comparison to the elite number one centres in the league, Kadri is not far off. Sidney Crosby‘s career Corsi average is 53.8 percent, Jonathan Toews’ is 56.8 percent, and Anze Kopitar‘s is 55.7 percent.

Traditionally, Kadri has not been the best when taking a faceoff. His career average is 46.3 percent. However, under new head coach Mike Babcock, Kadri is winning more draws than he is losing — boasting a winning percentage of 50.5 percent.

For the fourth straight season, Kadri is in the top five in scoring for the Leafs. Currently, this year he sits at number two with 32 points.

Over his time with Leafs, Kadri has shown that he can really lay the body. Twice in the last two months he has laid a thunderous body check, one on Anaheim’s Corey Perry and the other on Boston’s Brad Marchand.

Some would say that these numbers are not that impressive. His Corsi number has only been significantly higher than 50 percent during this season, which is only 58 games deep, his faceoff percentage is barely over 50 percent, and he only has 32 points this year.

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Those numbers do not sound too impressive on their own. However, when you look at the peripheral situation, they are not bad at all.

Kadri is playing on a team at the bottom of the league. He has no supporting cast to help him. His most frequent linemates have been James van Riemsdyk, who has been injured since the start of January, and All-Star Leo Komarov, who would likely crack the top six of few real playoff teams.

The Leafs don’t need Kadri to be at his very best this year, or even next. They are in the middle of a full rebuild, so Kadri has three to five years to pull his game together and play at his full potential.

If Kadri manages to excel in all five of the categories mentioned above, he will have a chance to become the true number one centre the Leafs are looking for. If not, he can still be one of the best number twos in the league.

Next: Maple Leafs: 4 Steps Management Should Take Next

What do you think the Leafs should do with Kadri? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.