Toronto Maple Leafs: It’s Time for Nazem Kadri to Play On the Top Line


Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward

Nazem Kadri

(43) heads up ice against the Ottawa Senators during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Who should man the Toronto Maple Leafs top line at centre has long been a topic of discussion in hockey’s most scrutinized market.

On one hand you have the “chemistry” candidate in Tyler Bozak—who both lives and plays with the Leafs top offensive threat in Phil Kessel. Heck, they even head out on off-days for meals as a unit:

On the other, there’s Nazem Kadri who may not have the rapport with top-line wingers Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, but who is considered by most to be more talented than Bozak.

Some have made the case that playing Kadri on the second line allows the team to put forth two legitimately threatening lines up front.

Throw in that Bozak is at his most effective when playing with Kessel, and that sort of notion seems both logical and reasonable.

But what happens when that effectiveness is no more?

It may seem odd to say that the Leafs’ top line hasn’t been effective just days after they combined for seven points in the team’s 6-3 win against the New York Rangers, but some metrics suggest it has come up short.

You don’t even need the metrics to tell you that the top line was a concern in the first two contests of the year.

But back to the top line’s Corsi numbers.

In Game 1 of the year against the Montreal Canadiens, the trio averaged a Corsi of about minus-6—and the numbers only worsened in five-on-five play. The team as a whole only lost the Corsi battle by a 58-57 margin.

Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they were better than the rest of the team, averaging a minus-4 Corsi—but again, the numbers even strength weren’t as strong. The Leafs as a whole were abysmal losing the Corsi battle 71-52.

On Sunday against the Rangers, though, they returned to being worse than the team, posting a dismal average Corsi of minus-7. The team lost the overall battle by just two—65-63.

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They may finally have hit their stride production-wise on Sunday—though Bozak’s goal wasn’t exactly a beautiful one—their possession numbers haven’t been promising.

Furthermore, their performances from the first two games weren’t awe-inspiring either.

It’s time to let Kadri play with the big boys on the top line.

Allow the most talented centre on the team—and one who’s beaten Bozak possession-wise handily in every game so far—to begin developing what could be an explosive partnership with the club’s $8-million-man.

While the opposition he’s played may not be as tough as Bozak’s competition, the Leafs have been better off with him on the ice, per

And if it means Bozak struggles away from Kessel and van Riemsdyk, perhaps it will help the team learn that he’s not really a top-6 centreman as many have suggested and was carried by two excellent linemates.

After the having re-built the bottom-6 core in the offseason, shaking up the first two lines may help the Leafs reach their potential as a team.

Not to mention, Kadri’s entering a contract year—he’ll be a restricted free agents—per

While it may be in the team’s interest to try and keep his point total lower, Kadri will still undoubtedly seek more money in his next contract. And keeping him happy could make for much smoother negotiations.

Statistics obtained courtesy of unless otherwise noted.