There are many common phrases in today’s world that everybody (or at least nearly everybody) knows. Life is a box of chocolates. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Then there is this one, and while it may not be as famous, it is certainly getting repeated more and more throughout the hockey world: Nazem Kadri suspended in the first round.
That may sound harsh, but it doesn’t stop it from being the truth. In both the 2018 and 2019 Playoffs as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kadri had two different incidents, which both resulted in suspensions. The first was a hit against Boston Bruins forward Tommy Wingels in Game 1, and earned him a three-game suspension.
The next came a year later, once again against the Bruins. In this incident, he cross-checked Jake DeBrusk up high as a result of a hit the Bruins forward laid on Patrick Marleau. This play resulted in Kadri being suspended for the remainder of the first round.
After this happening in back-to-back postseasons, Maple Leafs management was clearly upset with Kadri’s antics and chose to trade him to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot. To Kadri’s credit, he was able to avoid any suspensions whatsoever in his first postseason with the Avalanche, and was one of their better players with nine goals and 18 points in 15 games.
In his second postseason run with the team, however, he went back to his old ways. Ironically enough, he was on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast in March of this year and joked about the fact the Maple Leafs moved on from him for his playoff suspensions saying, “you can’t think I was going to do that again for a third time, could ya?”
Unfortunately for Kadri, it did happen a third time, as he leveled St. Louis Blues defenceman Justin Faulk with a high hit that resulted in a match penalty, as well as a lengthy eight-game suspension. Despite appealing this ruling twice, it was upheld and resulted in Kadri missing the remainder of the playoffs as the Avalanche were defeated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round.
Not Learning His Lesson
You would think by now that being suspended on six different occasions since 2013, and three in the playoffs mentioned above, would be more than enough to really have a player clue in and look to change the way they play the game. Instead, Kadri seems to have taken issue with the way the league handled his suspension, believing other players throughout the 2021 Playoffs have made worse hits than his on Faulk.
“There were other instances throughout the playoffs that were very questionable, where the hits were worse than mine, but weren’t even suspendable,” Kadri told Avalanche reporter Adrian Dater. “It did feel like I was made to be a poster boy, to send a message for the accountability aspect, which I didn’t appreciate much.”
This statement really says it all. While his party did have some validity, saying he shouldn’t have been treated as a repeat offender given the fact this suspension technically came more than two years after his previous, there is still no excuse for the hit he made, nor any of his suspensions prior to this.
Stay or Go
The worst thing about all of this is that Kadri is a very effective player. He can score, shut down other teams’ top lines, hit, and agitate. He is everything you’d want in a player, aside from his tendency to cross the line far too often. This is a player who has scored 32 goals on two separate occasions in his career, and has 425 points in 668 games. Simply put, he can play the game.
Even better is that he is on a very team-friendly deal that carries a cap hit of just $4.5 million per season. However, it is tough to say that he is extremely valuable when he often times isn’t available in the games his team needs him most, which makes holding on to him a difficult decision for the Avalanche. His current contract is set to expire after the 2021-22 season, meaning they may be forced to make a difficult decision in the near future.
They could choose to hold onto him for this season in hopes of chasing down a Stanley Cup, which many believe they are very close to. However, this could be a risky move given that he very well may, yet again, do something predatory to earn another suspension during the postseason. That decision making could also result in them losing him for nothing at season’s end, which would be a tough blow given how talented he is.
The other option is to move him this offseason and try to bring back someone who either has more term on a contract or who is much more unlikely to hurt your team in the playoffs. It is a very tough decision either way for general manager Joe Sakic, but he has certainly shown how great he is in this role, so there is no reason not to expect him to make the right choice this time around. As for now, it remains to be seen whether or not Kadri will be back in an Avs uniform in 2021-22.
Former Jr. A player turned blogger. At-large writer covering mainly the Calgary Flames. Co-host of Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.