The Dream Is Over: Thank You Nazem

As the offseason comes to a close and training camp signals the early beginnings of a new NHL season, the time has come to accept a very strange fact, Nazem Kadri is no longer a Leaf. Even after all the time that has passed since the trade, it’s a weird sentence to read, and an even weirder one to write.

For so long “Naz” been synonymous with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was drafted just over a decade ago and all he’s done is survive. From the troubling early days of his AHL development to Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle, the tank year, even Peter freakin’ Horachek, Kadri took everything that was thrown his way and grew because of it. His reward for all of that? Thrust into a pure shutdown role under Mike Babcock, routinely lining up against some of the best centers in the game, and against the odds, he thrived there.

Yes, he played on the edge and occasionally crossed the line (more than occasionally if we’re being honest) but just as Bruins fans defend Brad Marchand and his antics, Kadri was our guy, our ‘shift disturber’ if you will. Did his second consecutive playoff suspension cost him his place on the Leafs? I don’t think so, it may have played an underlying part in the decision to move him, but I choose to believe that a mutually beneficial deal with Colorado materialized and Dubas had to take it for the betterment of the team.

On a personal note, I’m gonna really miss Kadri, he’s been a favourite of mine from the moment he arrived in the NHL. Even with the emergence of the young stars like Auston Matthews, he remained at, or close to the top of that list. In the early days, he represented a glimmer of hope for the franchise, his potential to be great was one of the few bright spots in the distance for a team and its fanbase that was mired in misery. His evolution as a player and maturation as a man was inspiring to watch over the years, and even though the trade had to be done, it still feels just a little bit unjust that Kadri only got to experience the beginnings of what should be Toronto’s return to glory. To any Avalanche fans who may read this, treat him well. To Nazem and his family, from me and the rest of Leafs Nation, thank you for all that you did and best of luck to you in the future.

The Hit List: Nazem Kadri’s Top 5 Moments in a Leafs Uniform

5. Reaction to Kris Russel’s Own Goal

Love him or hate him, one thing is undeniable: Kadri likes to have fun and isn’t afraid of letting his personality shine through, there are numerous clips of both on and off-ice moments showcasing this, but the one that sticks out is just how he reacted to Kris Russel slapping the puck into Edmonton’s net with just over a minute to go in a tied game. A screenshot of this moment will probably live on my phone for eternity.

video credit: Sportsnet

4. Getting The Doug Gilmour Treatment

Scene: the Battle of Ontario, Hockey Night In Canada, March 30th 2013, live from Ottawa. The Leafs win 4-0 and Nazem Kadri scores his second career hat trick, Don Cherry was in the building, so naturally Grapes invited Nazem up for a post-game interview and topped it off by giving him a kiss, throwing back to the iconic Dougie moment.

video credit: p00njabiHD

3. 30-Goal Seasons

Kinda cheating here by just broadly stating the fact that he had back-to-back 32 goal seasons is one of Kadri’s best moments, but it really is a remarkable accomplishment and will always stand as one of the highlights of his time with the blue and white.

2. The Shift

After a miraculous double OT win against the Capitals, the new-look Leafs’ first playoff series shifted homeward to the Air Canada Centre. A rocky start saw the Caps quickly take a 2-0 lead, but before the first period ended, one massive shift from Kadri’s line sparked the boys in blue, leading to Auston Matthews’ first career playoff goal and, eventually, a comeback victory in overtime.

video credit: Goal Leafs Goal

1. Shutting Down McDavid

The game was billed as the first showdown between Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, a battle of titans-in-the-making, both first overall picks, both franchise centers, let’s go.

Except, that didn’t happen, Coach Babcock assigned Nazem Kadri’s line to square off against McDavid’s and right from the opening puck drop, Naz was all over McDavid, keeping him off the score sheet entirely while notching two goals of his own, including the OT winner. This game was the start of the ‘Kadri for Selke’ conversations, a true coming-out party for his ability to shut down some of the best in the game while also being able to score seemingly at will. In my opinion, this game was Kadri’s best overall performance as a Leaf and stands as a testament to the type of high-caliber player he really is.

video credit: Sportsnet

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