September 29, 2012
The Toronto Maple Leafs are still making headlines in Canada’s largest city even though NHL players are currently locked out. This time it concerns their farm team, the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. The Marlies rarely get mentioned in the Toronto press, but since the NHL’s on hiatus, reporters are now actually spending some time on them.
There’s a controversy brewing in the city because Maple Leafs/Marlies forward Nazem Kadri has apparently shown up to the AHL team’s training camp in pretty bad shape. Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and former coach Ron Wilson used to complain about the talented winger being too small, but now the organization feels he’s too big. The problem is that his extra weight is seemingly body fat and not muscle.
The Marlies opened their training camp on Sept. 27 and since the squad contains several of the Maple Leafs’ top prospects, the first day received a lot of attention from local media. Kadri spent the summer working out with former Leafs winger Gary Roberts, who’s known in NHL circles as some type of fitness guru, so most people figured he’d show up to camp in the best shape of his career. Roberts is a well-known disciplinarian who only works out with players who are completely dedicated to his training routine and diet.
Everything was progressing normally until one scribe asked Dallas Eakins, the head coach of the Marlies, about Kadri, and the coach said he was in the bottom few players when it came to body fat and overall condition. He said his condition was unacceptable and that his skating tests weren’t really too impressive either as they were just average. Word quickly spread throughout the Toronto media and a couple of newspapers published articles stating that Eakins called Kadri fat and slow.
However, that isn’t exactly the case as Eakins never referred to Kadri as fat. The coach then took to his Twitter account later on to clarify what he said. He stated that he was asked a question about the player and he simply gave an honest answer. He also mentioned that Kadri had completed just half of his tests. Kadri better do well on the rest of those tests though since the team’s first-round draft pick (seventh overall) in 2009, has to make a good impression soon if he’s ever going to become a regular in the NHL.
He certainly didn’t get off to a good start this season even if Eakins’ comments were taken out of context. Maple Leafs fans have been waiting three years for him to crack the lineup and many have criticized Burke for the way he’s treated the youngster. They feel he’s one of the most-gifted forwards on the team, but has spent the majority of his pro career down in the AHL with the Marlies instead of the NHL with the Leafs. Most of those same fans aren’t really concerned about a player’s body fat either as long as they can produce the goods on the ice.
Kadri’s under the microscope in Toronto because everybody knows how skilled he is, but he hasn’t really had the chance to prove night-in and night-out just how good he is. The 22-year-old has been criticized by Leaf management several times since drafting him and this could perhaps be a way of trying to motivate him. However, doing it in public on the second day of training camp is more likely to depress him than light a fire under him.
This is especially true since he worked hard over the summer with Roberts by training six days a week with him and eating tons of quinoa rice and spinach. It seems that he can’t do anything right when it comes to pleasing the Leafs. So even though he’s been trying to improve himself off the ice, it’s obviously not working for him at the moment.
Eakins said that everybody, not just professional athletes, has a choice when it comes to what they put into their bodies. He said you can sit on the couch with a bag of potato chips or apples and carrots. He added that many young players are in the habit of eating more junk food because they don’t have the time to eat properly. However, they usually mature as they get older and realize how important proper nutrition is. The coach said it’s not just Kadri that needs to improve his eating habits, but all of the team’s young players, but Kadri was the only one mentioned by name.
Kadri told the press that he’s still young and is slowly learning what it takes to become a pro athlete and what foods he should be eating. He said it takes time though and it doesn’t happen in the space of several weeks, but he’s slowly getting the hang of it. Kadri has improved as a player under Eakins and has played at a point-a-game clip with the Marlies. This is something the coach admitted, but still feels he has a long way to go to if he wants to earn a job with the Maple Leafs.
Kadri said he feels stronger on the ice and his body fat has actually dropped from last year, but it could still be better. He said he’s generally happy with his endurance and condition and said he can’t wait to get on the ice to prove it. If this is the case, then perhaps Eakins has made a wise choice by publicly getting on his case. As with most things in life, only time will tell.