You wonder when or if the Leafs will ever turn it around when you see things like this Kadri turn up in poor condition and the firing of their goaltending coach after taking so long to figure it out
Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri a little chubby?
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
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One day, if there’s NHL hockey again, the Maple Leafs would like to see Nazem Kadri go from prospect to productive professional.
They’d like to see him score and check and translate that point-a-game pace he has shown in the AHL to the big team.
And they’d like to see him show the impact they expected from him when they made him the seventh-overall pick in the 2009 entry draft.
But for now, Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins would like to see the talented forward eat better.
Speaking on the first day of physical tests for the Marlies players on Friday, Eakins offered a fairly pointed message to the 21-year-old in this his fourth professional training camp.
“His body fat today is probably in the bottom three to five guys in our whole camp and that’s unacceptable,” Eakins said at the MasterCard Centre where players were pushed so hard that several lost their breakfast. “The easiest part of coming into camp is eating correctly and training correctly.
“I think he has probably improved a little on the ice, (but) his diet is not where it should be.”
To be clear, Eakins was not commenting on Kadri’s ability or whether he was anywhere near to game shape — that evaluation will come over the next number of days as camp continues with traditional on-ice sessions Saturday at the Ricoh Coliseum. Rather, the coach and fitness guru was just responding honestly to a specific question regarding the young forward.
Regardless, Eakins’ refreshingly honest answer was the latest rather loud message delivered by an important voice in the organization that much is expected of Kadri — and the more dedicated he is to the process, the more likely he is to deliver.
The nagging of Naz began with former Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who rode Kadri mercilessly at times and was never shy about criticizing him publicly. It continued through several promotions and demotions as Kadri battled to progress in one of the most highly scrutinized markets in the league.
And who knows, Eakins words might have been a subtle shot at former Leaf turned fitness guru to the stars, Gary Roberts, who has openly questioned the fitness level of Toronto players in the past. Kadri, of course, spent the summer working with Roberts feeling such a commitment might finally be the ticket to steady work in the NHL.
For his part, Kadri patiently took the heat while predicting his off-season regimen with Robert will display itself better in the hockey portion of the camp than the poking and prodding phase.
“It definitely could have been a little better,” Kadri said when asked about the results. “But it is definitely not bad. I think the way I am out on the ice, I feel stronger and I think that body fat did drop down from last year too.
“There was a huge adjustment (to Roberts’ program, which includes diet advice.) For the most part I’m happy with where I am, I’m happy with how I feel on the ice and my conditioning and endurance. I honestly I just can’t wait to translate that to game form.
“I’m a young guy and I’m a pretty picky eater so there are a lot of adjustments to make. As I get older, these things are going to get better.
I’m slowly learning how to be a pro and what types of food to put into my body.”
As long as he’s around the Marlies, Kadri will get no shortage of advice in that department from Eakins and his staff.
“It’s like I tell them all the time,” Eakins said. “‘You can put the high-octane gas in your car and it will go great. Now if you go urinate in your tank your car is not going very far.’
“So it’s the same with your body, you put good fuel in you’re going to go further, you put junk in, you’re done.”
ST. CROIX DISTANCES SELF FROM ALLAIRE
Without mentioned the name of the departed Leafs goalie coach, the new man in town is already distancing himself from Francois Allaire.
In being introduced as Allaire’s replacement on Friday, Rick St. Croix said his philosophy will be to make James Reimer and Ben Scrivens better at what they already do well.
“We have to realize they are good goalies and they are here because they have talent and they have a gift,” the one-time Leafs netminder said. “I’m going to try to identify what I see as their strengths and I want to help them progress in what they do well.
“They’re already good. I just hope I can help them move in the right direction. I’m here as a sounding board and as a resource to help them become a better version of themselves.”
Allaire, of course, was often criticized for being too rigid in his teachings, a knock played down by both of the goaltenders currently at the top of the Leafs depth chart. Since parting ways with the team earlier this month, Allaire has ripped the organization for meddling with his methods.
Specifially, Allaire said the team’s other assistants spent too much time with the netminders. When asked about his philosophy in such matters St. Croix, who worked with Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle while in Winnipeg, suggested that within reason, all coaches should have an input.
“We need to be on the same page,” said St. Croix. “If they want to help the goaltenders and I’m not around, I’m open to that.”
St. Croix, who played 47 games for the Leafs in the early 1980s, will work with goaltenders at all levels of the organization.
“We trust his knowledge and experience with today’s model of goaltender,” Carlyle said in a team release. “The Leafs are fortunate to get a person of Rick’s calibre.”