To understand why Nazem Kadri believes he’s starting with a clean slate with coach Randy Carlyle, you have to understand how Carlyle’s approach with young players is so different from that of his curt predecessor.
“The reason I put him with Dion is that if (Phaneuf’s) deemed your best defenceman, you give the kid the security blanket of playing with him,” said Carlyle. “And I thought he showed flashes of his ability to skate and move the puck.
“Then he (Rielly) went down deep and then he threw the three-foot pass back to the point which would be a big no-no. That’s a young player and mistakes do happen out there. I’m not criticizing, but that’s what happened.”
Carlyle brushed aside Rielly’s mistake, almost laughing it off and reminding all of Rielly’s age. A couple of years ago, Kadri was in Rielly’s spot as the hot-shot prospect in camp with Ron Wilson in as coach.
If Kadri had made a giveaway on a blind pass, the media wouldn’t have heard the end of it. There’d have been all kinds of snide remarks from Wilson about Kadri’s “great” passes — “some for us, some for them.”
“Even with Ron (Wilson), I started off pretty good. I don’t know what the situation is there,” said Kadri. “Randy (Carlyle) is a really smart coach, I respect him. He knows what he’s doing. He knows what direction this team needs to go. I’m just trying to soak up as much information as I can and earn his trust and respect. Once I do that, I’ll be fine.”
Kadri was among those who stood out Wednesday at Leafs’ training camp. Goalie Ben Scrivens allowed just one goal in the 4-on-4 overtime and shootout game. James Reimer allowed six — four in the first period as the team worked the power play.
But Kadri scored three first-period goals in the scrimmage.
“I knew I had to have a good game coming into camp,” said Kadri. “I wanted to be one of those guys that stood out. I did everything I could. I worked hard. I prepared myself. I got the opportunities and made them count.”
But instead of picking Kadri’s game apart, as Wilson had done numerous times, Carlyle found something to praise.
“The one thing that’s impressed us with Kadri was in the faceoff circle, a little area where one-on-one compete has to be high,” said Carlyle. “He beat some of our veteran guys in our area to start with the puck.
For his part, Kadri says he’s ready.
“I felt confident coming into camp, I was ready,” said Kadri. “Obviously, with the Marlies and me hitting my stride at the time I did, helped me get focused for this camp. As far as right now goes, I’m feeling pretty good. I just have to hold myself accountable.
As for some of the barbs thrown his way by the previous administration, he says it doesn’t bother him.
“A lot of things I felt were unnecessary,” said Kadri. “In the end, it made me a better person. I’ve got some pretty thick skin to begin with, but I can handle it.”