Nazem Kadri needs to get things together after abysmal start to 2023-24

Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
7 months ago
A few months ago, I wrote an article detailing Nazem Kadri’s excitement to get a fresh start with the Calgary Flames in 2023-24, specifically focusing on this quote from over the off-season:
“There’s a ton of excitement,” Kadri said, echoing how many in the locker room are feeling nowadays. “It’s a re-energizing feeling anytime you make any sort of coaching or management change. But when you look at what (Flames GM Craig Conroy) has built, we’ve got a coaching staff that is going to have us playing a different way and, in my opinion, more to our style.”
The excitement from the $7 million forward was warranted. Craig Conroy was hired as the new general manager; Darryl Sutter was out, Ryan Huska was in; Marc Savard was hired to come make the power-play more dynamic, and an influx of youth was afoot with the likes of Jakob Pelletier, Matthew Coronato, and Dustin Wolf on the cusp of being major contributors to the every night roster.
Now, we’re nine games into the season, and it feels as if everything has gone the opposite way for both the team and Kadri. Sitting at 2-6-1 after another frustrating loss, this time on a bigger stage at the Heritage Classic against the rival Edmonton Oilers, not much else feels like it could go wrong for the Flames. As for Kadri, it has been a frustrating start as well. Against the Oilers, he scored his first goal of the season, and he has only registered one assist for a total of two points in nine games. His underlying numbers aren’t looking great, either.
Of the 19 Flames players that have played a minimum of 40 minutes at 5v5, Kadri sits 14th with an expected goals for percentage of 44.64%. He’s also last among all players in Fenwick For percentage at 45.51. Below are some visuals from Micah Blake McCurdy (aka HockeyViz) that represent his performance early as well. As you’ll notice, particularly in the offensive zone, the minus-23 percent and deep blue piece of the heat map within the slot represents lots of low-danger opportunities when Kadri is on the ice.
The Calgary defence when Kadri is on the ice per HockeyViz is actually above average, with most of the blue being within the slot here as well. However, the big pieces of red close to the net (specifically the one next to the net) are a bit worrying.
While the defensive visual does catch my eye a little bit, the one representing Kadri’s offence really puts into perspective just how ineffective he has been at generating high-danger chances and generating them at a consistent rate. A player who is being paid to produce some big offensive numbers looks stale on that end of the ice and is struggling to produce anything of value, both in the underlying numbers and the box score. Here is the kind of shift that the Flames need to see from Kadri consistently:
There aren’t any excuses now for Kadri and his production with the Flames. The big bad wolf of Sutter is gone, and he’s being given plenty of chances to start producing again by Huska, but he isn’t doing anything to convert on them. He has shown flashes of the skill that he’s being paid for, but they’re few and far between to start the 2023-24 season. If the Flames are to get themselves back into gear, they’re going to need improvement from Kadri on all fronts. He has been consistently abysmal through the first nine games of the season, and that cannot happen.

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