Kadri and Stroman Don’t Not Need to Tone It Down

Standard

“Why is everybody always picking on me?” from Charlie Brown by the Coasters.

You have to wonder if the Toronto media needs to manufacture a crisis just to keep them relevant. Take Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. He has been playing great this season. Floundering under previous coaching regime, Kadri has been a key piece of a resurgent Maple Leafs team. He reinvented himself from a pure goal scorer to a grinding, more defensive player. Once again, the media narrative in Toronto are calling for the Maple Leafs forward to stop with his antics.

And then there is Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. He is one who is never shy of showing his emotions when on the mound. He still has learn how to harness it properly. But once he does, American league batters better watch out.

I had my share of criticism of Kadri. But it has always been about his game. Same with Stroman. It’s always been on baseball. If others focused more about their game than what they do outside the rink or diamond, then they may have a point. These critics are the same ones who think Don Cherry is all wet when he comes on to say stop celebrating over scoring the tenth goal of the game when your team is up 10-0.

You have heard me say I always like athletes who play with an edge. An edge is who do more than just relying on their talent to succeed. They are far more feisty, and play with more passion than others. They may be nice guys outside the game, but when the puck drops or the pitch is thrown, it is all business.

Both Kadri and Stroman are not the only ones who need to play with an edge. Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews are just two NHL players that have led their teams to Stanley Cup championships. Sure the two are known for their scoring but many seem to overlook the fact that they like to get dirty, sometimes more often than we like to think. They grind, hit, get in opponents faces, and yes, they will drop the gloves and throw some punches. I like to see if sports writers in Pittsburgh and Chicago would disavow their team’s respective championships when they learn it’s not just skills that won them the Cup.

So Kadri and Stroman don’t need to tone it down. They need to channel that emotion to win games. If those two can do that, the better their respective teams will be in the long run.

Also see:

Stroman Will be Fine
James Reimer Deserves Better
Bad Blood is Good for Sports

Advertisements

The Perils of Diving

Standard

Kadri-Girardi DiveA couple of recent on-ice incidents got my attention. During a game between Toronto and New York, Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri lifted his right leg high in the air after getting bumped by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. Kadri went down, had his skate blade up, and got the back of the neck of Girardi. It wasn’t a deep cut but the incident took the steam out of the Air Canada Centre. The Flyers’ Luke Schenn had his head down when he was pushed into the boards by Avalanche forward Nathan McKinnon during a game. It was hardly a push on McKinnon’s part and Schenn put himself in a bad spot. But he went down and McKinnon got a 5-minute major and was kicked out of the game.

The recent acts by Kadri and Schenn trying to draw penalties through embellishment should be a lesson to young hockey players: diving can kill you or you can end up killing someone. Just ask Richard Zednik. In 2008, Zednik’s Panther teammate Olli Jokinen tried to draw a penalty by lifting his skate and inadvertently got the blade under the neck of Zednik. The cut Zednik suffered was more severe than Girardi’s. He had to be rushed to hospital and missed a considerable amount of time. Max Pacioretty is another example. The Canadiens forward got caught trying to get around the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara during a playoff game in 2011. But instead of getting out of the way, Pacioretty allowed himself to be drilled into the boards. Chara got ejected from the game and received some death threats from Habs fans.

Then there’s Steve Moore. I don’t have to repeat myself how his dive ended his career.

Diving happens in every sport. Players that do it are an embarrassment to the game. But it’s also dangerous particularly in hockey where you have skate blades, sticks, ice and boards that are solid as a rock to deal with. If this continues, one of these days a player will try to draw a penalty and it will end up getting someone killed. I understand it’s a competitive environment and you have to do what it takes to win. But is it really worth it to dive and risk endangering the lives of your opponents or teammates for a 2-minute power play? I can’t understand why players dive in the first place. Believe it or not, diving takes planning and practice. No one I know considers exaggerating an injury at the very last second. A lot of effort and energy is needed to dive. That could be better used to help improve a player’s ability to play hockey the right way.

Too bad there is no push to eliminate diving like there is with fighting. But I also believe people need to learn things the hard way in order for them to change their habits. Time will only tell if Kadri and Schenn will learn from their experience.