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Is it too early for the Calgary Flames to start worrying about Nazem Kadri?

The Calgary Flames have had a relatively mediocre start to their season as they hold a record of 2–2–1. They have had some good performances and they have had some performances they wish were much better, and there’s no player that is more under the microscope right now than Nazem Kadri.

New season, same old habits

Kadri had a fantastic start to his first season as a Flame last year, he came out of the gates roaring and was showing no sign of a Stanley Cup hangover after winning it the year prior with the Colorado Avalanche—a run he was very much a key player in. However, his season took a turn after he returned from the All-Star break. Kadri was a mess the last half of the year, and his season was defined by a must-win game against the Blackhawks late in the season where his two crucial turnovers ended the Flames’ hopes of making the playoffs.

Going into this season, there was a fresh slate, he had a full summer to recover and most thought he may start the season hot again, but it has been the opposite. Kadri has been abysmal in almost every facet of the game. He has been less than stellar defensively, not creating anything offensively, and he has looked as lazy and as disinterested as he did at the end of last season. Look no further than his too many men penalty he took against the Capitals in overtime, he wasn’t paying attention. Not great when he is being paid $7 million a year.

Ryan Huska has already been throwing his lines in a blender and it doesn’t matter who Kadri has been with, they haven’t been able to gain any traction, and the common denominator seems to Kadri. At the end of the day, the Flames need Kadri to get going at some point or another, but they cannot continue with him going like this.

He has been one of their worst players at even strength to start the year: Per, he owns a CF% of 46.0, a relative Corsi-For% of -11.8 and he has had 77.1% of his shifts start in the offensive zone, not to mention that he has only one point in his first five games, it is simply not good enough.

The need for Kadri to make impact

We said it all last year and it seems like it has been the same narrative early on this year, but the Flames need their best players to be their best players and they need their top guys to come through in key times. Going back to last year, when the Flames needed a clutch play to happen, whether it was a big goal or a big play to be made, it was nowhere to be found.

I’m not saying this falls all on Kadri (Jonathan Huberdeau is just as much at fault), but something needs to change, they are not going anywhere without the star players showing up for the big moments.

I know I bang this drum a ton, but when the Flames had Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, every time they hopped over the boards, you could feel the ice tilt, you felt like they could score at any moment. I never get that same sense when Kadri comes out on the ice, he hasn’t shown to be that guy who can shift a game. Hey, maybe he isn’t, but when you have the cap hit he has, he needs to be able to take games over at certain times, even if it’s not every shift.

Plenty of season to go

The start of the season for Kadri has been objectively bad, but I will try and show some positivity here. I think Kadri will get it together at some point soon, he is a motivated and proud person, he knows he hasn’t been at the level he needs to be at for this team to succeed. I loved the emotion he showed in the first period against the Blue Jackets with his fight against Cole Sillinger.

Consistency and work ethic are the key, and if he can get that all together, he can and should be a force for the remainder of the year.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

Alex Russo

Contributor for the Win Column CGY | 1/3 of The Burning Leaf Podcast
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