Toronto Maple Leafs: Maybe Nazem Kadri was not the problem

Nazem Kadri previously of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Nazem Kadri previously of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are watching the playoffs from home, as 16 other teams compete for the Stanley Cup. Nazem Kadri plays for one of those teams.

One of the teams that the Toronto Maple Leafs are watching from home is the Colorado Avalanche, who have a familiar face making a significant contribution.

Nazem Kadri has slotted in wonderfully as the second-line centre on a very talented Avs team.  Kadri was traded by the Maple Leafs July last year, and it is clear now who won the deal.

In return for Kadri and defenceman Calle Rosen, the Maple Leafs got defenceman Tyson Barrie and forward Alexander Kerfoot.  The Leafs definitely could have used Kadri’s exact skill set, after a disappointing play-in round exit to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Maple Leafs needed a player like Kadri against Columbus.

The Leafs got physically outplayed by Columbus in the qualifying round and really could have used a more physical player like Kadri.  While it made some sense to deal from a position of strength (centre), the Leafs subtracted grit for more finesse.

A lot was made (and rightfully so) about Kadri’s discipline history for the Maple Leafs, especially in last season’s playoffs when he was suspended for the remainder of the first round, a series the Maple Leafs would go on to lose.

However, nobody on this year’s version of the Toronto Maple Leafs played anywhere near that edge.  Kyle Clifford brought some physicality but did not see much ice time.  After that, the Leafs did not adjust to playoff hockey and were bounced quickly.

Nazem Kadri has flourished with the Avalance.

Maybe Kadri needed the change of scenery, even if he was “bummed out” when learning that the Maple Leafs had dealt him.  Toronto selected the centreman seventh overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

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In his decade with the Leafs, Kadri amassed 161 goals and 357 overall points in 561 games played.  He also racked up 387 penalty minutes and was generally a complete pest in his later seasons with the team.

In Colorado this season, Kadri has been even better.  In 51 regular-season games, he scored 19 goals and 36 points while adding 97 penalty minutes.

Kadri has responsible defensively with a plus-7 rating for the season.  He also played physically without going over the edge.

In the playoffs, Kadri has shined. He has six points in six games for the Avs and has stayed out of the penalty box.  His two goals have both been game-winners, and he has fired 25 shots on goal.

The return the Toronto Maple Leafs got looks pretty sparse now.

Kerfoot took Kadri’s spot as the third-line centre and was not nearly as effective, notching just nine goals and 28 points in 65 games this season.   He does not bring anywhere near the physicality that Kadri does and recorded only 88 shots on goal this season.

Kerfoot had three assists in the Maple Leafs’ five play-in games but also recorded just five shots.  He was ‘fine,’ another Maple Leafs forward playing with finesse and not getting to the dirty areas.  According to Daily Faceoff, Kerfoot ranked as the 113th-best centreman in the NHL this season, which means he would barely stay on most teams’ fourth lines.

Barrie took a lot of flack from Leafs Nation, but provided some offence for the team all season.  Barrie recorded 39 points in 70 games played this season, but was a minus-7 for the year.

The problem is that Barrie is not the tough, stay-at-home defenceman the Leafs desperately need.  He also disappeared against Columbus, which seems hard to do in a bubble.  Barrie was held off the scoresheet entirely in the series and was bullied repeatedly by Blue Jackets forecheckers.

Making matters worse, Barrie was acquired in the final year of his contract, and with the Leafs in a salary cap mess, more than likely won’t be brought back.  Not that he would have been a shoo-in to return even without the financial complications.  Kadri has two years left on his deal at a very reasonable $4.5 million, while Kerfoot is signed for three more seasons at $3.5 million.

So for a sub-standard version of Kadri and one year of Barrie, the Leafs dealt a player they invested a decade in developing. Of course, hindsight is 20-20 in evaluating a trade, but given some truth serum, I bet GM Kyle Dubas would want to take this one back.

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How do you feel about the Kadri trade a year later?  What can the Toronto Maple Leafs do moving forward to improve the team?  Please let us know in the comments below.