The Dallas Stars were fairly close to picking Nazem Kadri in the 2009 NHL Draft. With Kadri higher on Dallas' board than Jared Cowan, Kadri would have likely been the pick if the Toronto Maple Leafs hadn't selected him before Dallas. If you're squeamish, you already know the cruel fashion in which the unfortunate rest is felonious history.
In which case, look away. Scott Glennie wouldn't end up a fraction of the value of later players like Chris Kreider, Ryan Ellis, Nick Leddy, and Marcus Johansson. And yet here we are. Thanks to Dave Nonis and his David Clarkson contract, and Randy Carlyle's bronze age wisdom, the Maple Leafs are having a full blown firesale.
They've done a solid job too. It's been so good, their current roster has risen below the cap floor (33 million not including those on IR), to paraphrase Mel Brooks. Which leaves Kadri, at least potentially. The Kadri talk started with Elliotte Friedman's AMA on reddit.
It helps that Toronto's media now has a new voodoo doll to poke petty needles in, as James Mirtle wryly notes. But Kadri is still a highly productive player at even strength:
The past three seasons, Kadri has averaged 55 points per 82 games played - despite almost never playing on a first line or power-play unit. On a per-minute basis, he has produced roughly as much as Joe Thornton, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla at even strength the past three years.
He's top 30 in the league when it comes to high danger scoring chances, and he's able to find the so called "dirty areas".
He's not bad going from coast to coast either.
In other words, because I know I'll have to inevitably deal with the extracurricular stuff, it's important to keep an open mind when the numbers and the eyes align to explain to you just how good he is. Even when compared to names you might otherwise feel outclass him.
Here are some of the centres people think are currently better than Kadri that just aren't pic.twitter.com/nPmeX0sYhS— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) February 22, 2016
His individual Corsi For at even strength exceeds even Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, which sticks him in the top 10.
Perhaps the greatest argument for Kadri is that he owns a skill no other Dallas Star players possesses; the skill in drawing penalties. He's drawn 38 penalties this year, which leads the league. And he's done so consistently since 2011. When you look at the names on the list of top players when it comes to penalties drawn, you're not looking at the Antoine Roussel's of the league. Jeff Skinner, Matt Duchene, Tarasenki, Tavares, et cetera. Drawing penalties, for whatever connotations it may have in moments, seems driven by skill more than theatrics. And for a team like Dallas that has a strong Power Play, the net gain would be massive.
Dallas has a glut of centers, but Jason Spezza and Vernon Fiddler will not grow up with Dallas' core. And those that have the potential to, have only that; potential. Kadri is not potential.
Which brings us to the icky stuff. Any negatives will inevitably fall back on charged language about his "attitude" and "character": two mercurial elements that seem to follow certain players more than others. And these are often informed more by personal subterfuge than actual analysis. But let's scrap that can of worms for a second.
Yes, Kadri is a pest. Yes, his throat slashing gesture the other day was in poor taste to say the absolute least. And some critics might build an old boy's club mountain out of a molehill by saying Kadri would split the locker room apart just because Benn and Kadri aren't the best of friends.
To which I'd ask, where is it written that a good locker room is one that, prima facie, gets along? Why do we confuse efficiency with ethics? Hockey's a physical sport. There isn't a possession that goes by in which someone's momma isn't slandered, or in which somebody's health isn't threatened. For fans of the Dallas Stars, this is especially rich given how dirty Dallas' defensemen were at the turn of the century. Roussel has probably face washed enough NHL players to repel every free agent.
So why does none of this matter? Why do people no longer talk about Mike Richards and Jeff Carter's partying habits? Because there's a lovely elixir to any team's tribulations, and it's called 'winning'.
And Nazem Kadri would help the team win.