My starting hypothesis for this article was that the spotlight that has followed Kadri has slowed down his development as a hockey player, but I haven’t really figured out the psychology behind it. “If you are ready to step up, you’re ready to step up, look at Landeskog and Skinner,” you say. Well, exactly. Kadri wasn’t ready then, and while he’s more ready now, it’s more complicated than just putting a talented kid on the ice, especially in a market like this.
It can be argued that the external pressure and high expectations for the kid at that age contributed to a certain self image, which can give a maybe-undeserved confidence boost. When not performing up to the expected standard, it can also leave a mark on such a young mind. When you’re picked 7th overall in a market like Toronto, that immediately captures media attention, but Kadri also contributed to all of the hype. He played one hell of a debut training camp. That raised expectations to an even higher level.
Turns out all of this attention wasn’t as much undeserved as it was early and unnecessary. I’m not saying Kadri would already be in the NHL if the hype wasn’t there. I am saying we shouldn’t make superstars out of “projects” who still haven’t played their first NHL game. It can (not necessarily will) impact their frame of mind. He is still the same player, but maybe we lost a couple of “developmental months” with him trying to find his hockey “humbleness” and maturity again.
It’s quite probable that reality hits harder than any open ice hit. I can never fully be sure of that in regards to Kadri, but I am sure that certain young minds find it hard to cope when they don’t meet their (or our) expectations. Not saying Kadri wasn’t aiming high when he was drafted 7th overall, but I wouldn’t blame him if part of his thoughts already put him on NHL ice.
I can understand why this might be hard to avoid. We are a fanbase that’s absolutely crazy about hockey. The game captivates us like nothing else in this world. When you’re waiting to win for such a long time as we have, it’s hard not to be on a constant lookout for a savior, especially when talking about a legitimately highly skilled young player.
However, as it was implied in the previous paragraphs, this goes beyond fan expectations. Like Burke said in his “Business of Hockey” interview for The Agenda, he’s in the entertainment business. If you can’t win in that particular moment (and history speaks for itself), then give the fans something to savor… something to talk about. What’s tricky about this is the factors go hand in hand. If it wasn’t for fan expectations, Kadri wouldn’t have such a viable “entertainment factor” and thus wouldn’t be a target of such hype and expectations.
Was it in the best interest of Kadri? No, it was in the best interest of generating audience. To generate that glimmer of hope in dark times. I would be more upset about this if the organization did more to hamper his on ice development than just feeding of the hype and doing promotional stuff. You can argue the call ups until you’re blue in the face, but it’s not like you can create a perfect situation for him to come into.