Mercurial Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri is one of the most polarizing players to NHL fans. At times, he's shown flashes of sublime brilliance. At other turns, he seems disinterested and uninspired.
Sportsnet hockey insider Nick Kypreos recently tweeted that the Leafs have had discussions with at least two NHL clubs about trading the young centre.
Toronto's second-line centre had an excellent season last year, posting 44 points in the shortened 48-game season. Kadri thrived with the additional ice time and responsibility under head coach Randy Carlyle. Based on that offensive output, he seemed primed to take the next step to stardom this season.
However, this has not been a smooth transition to stardom. The 23-year-old native of London, Ontario, has played well at times, but on many nights he has been stapled to the bench for long stretches due to his lacklustre play.
Kadri has 23 points in 39 games played this season. This puts him on pace for about 48 points over an 82-game season. That would amount to only four more than what he produced in 48 games last year.
He is also minus-11 this season. Again, looking back to last year, when he was plus-15 in 48 games, this season does not compare favorably.
Despite these troubling numbers, I believe it would be a mistake to trade Kadri at this time.
If you dig a little deeper into some other stats courtesy of Behind the Net, Kadri's advanced metrics are much better than you might expect. His team-leading relative Corsi number (on-ice shot attempt differential minus off-ice shot attempt differential) of 13.2 is tremendous.
On a team that has been outplayed and outshot time after time this year, Kadri has fared better than his teammates in this regard.
In fact, Kadri's relative Corsi number has improved every year for the past three seasons, despite the Leafs' issues with attacking the opposing team's net regularly. As can be seen here, Kadri's numbers are excellent in this regard.
|Nazem Kadri's Key Advanced Stats|
|Season||relative Corsi||Off. Zone Starts||TOI/60||On-Ice Sh%|
Additionally, Kadri has been getting fewer offensive zone starts than he did two seasons ago, which suggests that he's being trusted in more situations.
What is interesting is that the Leafs' shot percentage while Kadri is on the ice has been relatively low this season.
Kadri's individual shot percentage is at 15.5, so it is clear that his teammates have not been producing at a high rate. Over the course of the season, this should improve and Kadri's assist numbers are likely to rise as his linemates score more goals.
Beyond the numbers, trading Kadri right now doesn't seem to make much sense. Trading a young, talented and offensive-minded centre is always a gamble. Given the lack of organizational depth at centre, it doesn't seem justified to do so given that it is an acute area of concern—even with Kadri in the fold.
Also, selling low doesn't make much sense either. Teams could rightfully question whether or not Kadri's excellent offensive numbers in 2012-13 were simply an outlier. While the advanced stats say otherwise, not everyone—including Leafs management—seem to be sold on some of these advanced metrics.
The return on a trade right now, unless there's someone really interested in Kadri, doesn't project well.
While Kadri may not develop into a bona fide No. 1 centre, there is a very real possibility that he will become one of the league's best second-line centres as his game matures.
He's just 23 years old, and even if he still exhibits some bad defensive habits, the Leafs need to work with this talented player in order to reach his full potential. He also needs to work even harder to fulfill his promise.
Riding the pine for a night or two, versus sending him on the next plane out of Pearson Airport, makes much more sense as the Leafs battle to make the playoffs this spring.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats can be found on NHL.com.
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