No. 43 must temper his DEFCON 5 response to imperilled teammates, if he’s not already put his own Maple Leaf career in danger.
A contrite Nazem Kadri emerged from 11 days of silence on locker clean out day, this time vowing to take even stronger measures to police himself after a second spring suspension hurt his club in a seven-game loss to Boston.
He missed the final five contests for a crosscheck to the head of Boston’s Jake DeBrusk, after the Bruin rammed Leaf winger Patrick Marleau into a post near the end of the B’s bench.
“Sometimes I think a little too much with my heart, instead of my head and that’s something I’m going to fix,” Kadri vowed Thursday. “I can assure you this isn’t going to happen again.”
It was much the same line he delivered after the NHL bounced him three games last year for boarding Tommy Wingels, an over-reaction for hitting Mitch Marner high.
“All these instances are standing up for other people and not myself,” Kadri said. “I know I put us behind the eight ball and my teammates and the staff, know that I would do anything for the players. You don’t cross the line and you don’t want that happening again, but there are certain things I can do to fix the situation.”
Pressed on what anger management methods he might try, Kadri replied “they’re more on the personal side and I’d rather not share those things.”
He has a string of regular season suspensions as well.
“There’s always a plan in place for when I feel the need to do something like that, to be able to take a step back, relax and assess for the long run. Usually, I don’t think about consequences ahead of time and that’s something I’m becoming much more aware of. I put my teammates first. It might not seem that way from the outside looking in, but these guys all know.”
Addressing the DeBrusk hit, Kadri said he’d watched it a few times, during his league hearing and while he stewed in Toronto during the Boston road games.
“I was not intending to get him in the face. That’s completely not in my character. Had that been the case, there would’ve been more substantial damage. “I was unsatisfied with the hit on Patty, obviously, a bit of a dangerous play. I just wanted to give him one of those shots in the arm and let him know that wasn’t OK with us. Unfortunately, I caught him high and I have to be accountable.
“A bit of a bone-headed play, we were still in the game. Ultimately in doing the right thing for my teammates, I ended up doing the wrong thing.”
He added “I’d much rather have somebody on my team that maybe cares a little too much than too little. I want to stand up for our guys, I just have to do it in a smarter manner.”
Though the Leafs did well as a team, Kadri had 44 points in 73 regular season games, a low in the Mike Babcock era. He didn’t have the bountiful season many projected as one of three top centres and a net-presence on power play. After he was suspended, William Nylander had to switch to third-line centre putting the Leafs out of whack.
“Depth we were counting on,” said Babcock of losing Kadri. “He didn’t intend to cross the line, he was trying to stand up for his teammate. What impacted us more is that it was back-to-back years. So it’s hard.”
Kadri insisted he can be trusted should the Leafs get in the playoffs next year and though he isn’t a contract headache with three more years at $4.5 million, that’s a workable deal for a trade if the club thinks he’s too loose a cannon.
Kadri has been on four Leaf playoff teams, all of which lost in the first round. This year, with so many upsets going on around them might have been their best chance – and he was in street clothes.
“It was brutal, tough to sit back and watch when you know you can possibly make a difference. Of course I regret it. I’ve never been so anxious and stressed out than (watching) these games.”
Kadri was also asked why he doesn’t drop his gloves and initiate a fight if he wants frontier justice so much.
“I tried to go that avenue. That’s the first thing I think of and I want to keep it within the rules. If that doesn’t happen, you have to do something else to get the message across. But that (DeBrusk hit) was uncalled for.
“I felt like I just started playing my best hockey in that series, I was really planning on bringing it, being a difference and being that X factor”
Instead, the X beside his name was as a lineup scratch where he wasn’t helping anyone.
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