Free Kadri, lose En­nis and more Leafs ob­ser­va­tions

It’s still early, but the Toronto Maple Leafs so far are full of sur­prises – some per­plex­ing

StarMetro Edmonton - - SPORTS - Damien Cox SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

No, it’s not go­ing to be 7-6 every night.

The NHL will soon set­tle down, as it does every year, and the wild shootout that hap­pened Sun­day night be­tween the Leafs and Black­hawks will not be a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the league this sea­son. To some — those who think goals and more goals aren’t en­ter­tain­ing — that’s a re­lief. To oth­ers who wish the NHL was a lot more like 25 years ago, the last time the league av­er­aged more than seven goals every game, that’s a dis­ap­point­ment.

For the Leafs, it’s fair to say all three of their games — two over­time wins and a loss — have been very dif­fer­ent. This is a team that’s still get­ting set­tled in.

Still, there are ob­ser­va­tions that can be made. Here are some of them:

The most no­tice­able char­ac­ter­is­tic about John Tavares so far (aside from the four goals) is that he seems com­pletely un­fa­mil­iar with the lazy shift or par­tial ef­fort.

Se­ri­ously, this guy doesn’t

take a shift off, and when he loses the puck it’s like some­body stole his wal­let. That Tavares was able to sculpt this “full-out ef­fort every shift” phi­los­o­phy dur­ing all those lost years on Long Is­land, years when he could have be­come a self­ish player, is a tes­ta­ment to his work ethic.

The most per­plex­ing lineup move was the in­stal­la­tion of Tyler En­nis as Aus­ton Matthews’ right-winger for the first 2-1/2 games. En­nis is try­ing to piece his ca­reer back

to­gether, which is great. But it was odd to see him as Wil­liam Ny­lan­der’s re­place­ment along­side Matthews while Con­nor Brown and Kasperi Ka­pa­nen, both of whom have been wait­ing for higher pro­file of­fen­sive roles, didn’t get that chance.

Bab­cock is go­ing to have to find more work for Nazem Kadri. Fif­teen min­utes a night is just not enough for a back-to­back 32-goal scorer. It’s early, but right now Kadri is av­er­ag­ing more than a minute less in

ice time com­pared to last year, and three to four shifts fewer a game. He’s got more to give, but needs the time to give it.

Don’t be too hard on Gar­ret Sparks. Well, not yet. But it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that, at 25, he’s learn­ing a new role, that of the NHL backup. Sparks is used to be­ing a starter, and he’s go­ing to need some time to fig­ure this out. Read all 10 of Cox’s ob­ser­va­tions at thes­


Free agent ad­di­tion John Tavares is giv­ing the Maple Leafs their money’s worth with re­lent­less ef­fort and re­sults, Damien Cox writes.

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