Nazem Kadri

Leafs need Kadri to take another step


The optimists will say Nazem Kadri finally proved he belonged in the NHL last year. They’ll point out the 18 goals and 26 assists he scored in 48 games, his 44 points ranking him second on the Maple Leafs behind Phil Kessel’s 52. And they’ll conclude that former general manager Brian Burke was wise to make Kadri the seventh overall pick in 2009.

The skeptics, on the other hand, won’t be so sure. They’ll note that Kadri’s shooting percentage of 16.8 percent was abnormally high compared to the league average. They’ll say he was lucky. And they’ll argue the 22-year-old will be hard-pressed to match last year’s rate of production in 2013-14.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? At this point, who knows?

But this is what happens to high draft picks in hockey-mad markets like Toronto. Everything they achieve, or fail to achieve — right down to the appropriate percentage of body fat — is pored over by fans and media.

“It was tough on me for a little bit,” Kadri admitted in February, per the Globe and Mail. “I really don’t think a lot of other people could have been under the scrutiny and under the pressure and have that mental toughness to prevail.”

Plenty of scrutiny and pressure remains in his future though. Early speculation has him centering a line between Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson, a pair of wingers to which the club has committed a total of $63 million in new contracts. It’s a great opportunity for Kadri, but like they say, to whom much is given, much is expected.

First things first — Kadri, a restricted free agent, needs a new contract for himself.

“We’re in conversation and there’s still some work to be done, but we’re talking and that’s the most important thing,” he said on July 12.

Chances are, a deal will be struck in time for training camp. But getting that done will be the easy part. The hard part will be proving the skeptics wrong.

More Leafs day on PHT:

Bozak, Clarkson contracts were big gambles for Nonis

Reimer vs Bernier — Who ya got?

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?