Maple Leafs' Kadri has some growing up to do

Nazem Kadri may be inconsistent on the ice, but in the dressing room, when it comes to dealing with the media, he’s consistently a go-to guy.

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Over this season of massive Maple Leafs frustration, Kadri has generally made it a point to be front and centre with reporters and tell the media — and by extension Leafs fans — that he wants to be an important part of this franchise going forward, that he wants to stay in Toronto, that he wants to be a key part of the team’s rebuild and he wants to take on more of a leadership role.

All of which is great.

But the problem is, he really has to start walking the walk and not just blowing smoke all the time.

It’s one thing saying all the right things.

But when a team gets smoked 6-1 by the St. Louis Blues at home on Saturday night, and a guy is 20 minutes late for a team meeting before a practice (with no excuses like a snow storm or an injury holding him back) the next morning, well, there’s no excuse for that — even though Kadri’s supporters have whined that the media have blown this situation out of proportion and that it’s not that big a deal.

Well it is a big deal.

The Leafs are rebuilding their personnel AND first-year president Brendan Shanahan has also said that he wants a new culture in the dressing room as well, a culture of accountability and professionalism — a culture that says if a player is late, he is punished and held accountable.

Isn’t that what Leafs fans want?

Hey, no one is suggesting that Kadri be drawn and quartered.

And he’s not being punished unjustly. Being sent home and sat for one game is not that big of a deal. He’ll still be collecting his big pay-cheque.

But the suggestion that the Leafs should have kept his tardiness “in-house” is plain ridiculous.

Hasn’t Shanahan talked about openness being one of the key elements of this franchise going forward?

Listen, even if Leafs head coach Peter Horachek had not mentioned Kadri being late for practice on Sunday, chances are the media would have found out anyway.

Someone would have noticed or someone would have leaked it.

And then what?

Was Horachek supposed to lie when asked if Kadri was late?

Is that what this franchise is supposed to be about, protecting players and lying if the media hears about something gone amiss?

Horachek did the right thing and it’s hard to believe there are suggestions that Horachek should have kept Kadri’s tardiness quiet.

These guys are professionals for Pete’s sake (pun intended).

If they’re late for a meeting or practice they should be held accountable — particularly if they play for a team that has had a miserable, under-achieving season, as the Leafs have — and especially after a terrible performance like the one against the Blues the night before.

There’s a school of thought that Kadri has long been a whipping boy of the media in Toronto.

That’s a myth.

Kadri’s has plenty of defenders and supporters in Leafs-land, in the media as well, and he hasn’t been treated unfairly.

This is not a matter of a guy being treated unfairly.

How about Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf and James Reimer? Have they been treated better than Kadri this season?

Kadri is a special player in terms of skills. He can do things offensively that most players can’t.

And at 24, he may have a big future in front of him in the NHL.

Perhaps what went down on Sunday will actually help in his development.

Perhaps he’ll learn from the banishment and one-game suspension.

If he does, then he’ll be all the better for it. And that will make him a better hockey player.

Kadri seems like a good kid. He certainly is full of confidence and, some would say, arrogance.

But if he is serious about being a key cog on this team going forward, then he’s got to step up — on the ice and off.

And not just talk about it all the time.


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