Wednesday March 11th, 2015

It’s now or never for Nazem Kadri.

Speaking to reporters at an impromptu gathering after practice on Wednesday morning, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan revealed that the talented center has been handed an additional two-game suspension by the team as a result of recurring disciplinary issues.

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And that might not be all. Shanahan said that Kadri could be activated for Saturday’s game against the Canucks in Vancouver “if things go well,” suggesting that this latest attempt to corral Kadri—who watched Toronto’s previous game from the press box after sleeping in and arriving late for a team meeting on Sunday morning—is an open-ended affair.

Shanahan refused to offer details of the offense (or offenses) that led to the decision, but said that it was time for the 24-year-old to “grow up.”

"There's more to this than Naz being 15 minutes late to a meeting one time,” Shanahan said. “You could handle that internally, maybe [have him] take the guys out to lunch or something. We like Naz. He’s an important part of this team’s future. But we expect a certain level of professionalism. There’s a history here.

“This is a moment when a player has to look in the mirror and make some decisions,” Shanahan said. “The easiest thing to do would be to sweep this under the rug. We would not be doing Naz a service if we did that.”

No, they wouldn’t. And that’s why you have to give Shanahan, who has largely remained behind the scenes during the Leafs’ troubled season, credit for stepping up. He has to understand that this could cause an irreparable rift between the team and a valuable player. But as much as this is about correcting Kadri’s course, it’s equally important that a message is being sent to the rest of the team by the man who is responsible for calling the shots.

It’s a good bet that whatever mistakes Kadri made caught the attention of the guys in the room. Allowing those transgressions to go unpunished would undermine all the talk about changing the team’s culture.

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So by holding Kadri publicly accountable, by demanding more, the Maple Leafs are setting a standard that will define the team moving forward. And that’s huge.

While we await word on his misdeeds–no doubt they will surface before long–the big question is, What happens next? Kadri was repentant for being late to the team meeting, and he appeared to take his punishment in stride. But this is something else entirely.

Does he learn from this very public spanking and get his head on straight? Or will it get to the point where Toronto feels like it has to cut bait on a player who could be a very important part of any rebuilding effort?

We’ll have more on this as it develops. And seeing as we’re talking about the raging trash fire that is the Maple Leafs, it should develop quickly.

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