Nazem Kadri’s Rollercoaster Journey to Become Game 4 Hero

It’s been a challenging road at times for Nazem Kadri, but he is now the latest in a long line of Stanley Cup Final heroes.

The Colorado Avalanche forward scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a result, his club is now one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Kadri’s career began with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010, after being drafted seventh overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. His offensive impact was not immediately felt, but during the lockout-shorten 2012-2013 campaign, Kadri burst onto the scene with 44 points in 48 games.

The following season, he reached the 50-point plateau for the first time, but he received a three-game suspension that would be the first of several for the Canadian forward.

Kadri has been through a lot en route to becoming Wednesday’s Game 4 hero.

The 2014-2015 season was a low point for Kadri. His offensive numbers were not good, and he was suspended twice in the month of March, once by the Maple Leafs and once by the NHL.

After a couple of fines and a suspension during the back half of the 2015-2016 season, Kadri rebounded the next year by scoring 61 points in 82 games. He reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career by tallying 32 markers.

He backed that up with a second solid regular season in a row, but the playoffs were a different story. After Game 1 of the first round in 2018, Kadri was hit with a three-game suspension. The Leafs lost two of those three games before losing the series in seven games.

Fast forward one year to the 2019 postseason, and he was again suspended, this time for five games. Of course, Toronto lost that series too.

The Maple Leafs decided that they had seen enough, and Kadri was dealt to Colorado. In his first two seasons, both of which were shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kadri failed to score 40 points.

However, he did manage to record 18 points in 15 playoff games in 2020, a total that exceeded his career playoff totals while in Toronto.

In 2021 though, Kadri was again suspended in the playoffs, and his team again came up short in his absence.

That brings us to this season, where the 31-year-old has hit his highest high yet. In 71 regular season contests, he totaled 87 points, including a career-high 59 assists. This postseason, he has added 15 points in 14 games so far.

These playoffs have been trying for Kadri, though. In the Avs’ second-round series against the St. Louis Blues, he ran over goaltender Jordan Binnington on a play that, while clean, brought a lot of backlash.

Kadri received a staggering amount of hate, much of which was not rooted in hockey. Colorado and the hockey community rallied around Kadri and now, after spending only three weeks nursing an injured thumb, he is the hero of Game 4 and one win away from becoming a champion.

 

The journey is far from over for Kadri, but he has come a long way since his debut in 2010. If this season’s production, discipline, and playoff run are signs of what’s to come for the London, Ontario native, then I think it’s safe to say he’s only scratched the surface of his potential.