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Recapping my pre-season predictions: ‘Nazem Kadri reaches the 25 goal, 65 point mark’

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
There aren’t many players like Nazem Kadri when he’s at his best. But his first season with the Calgary Flames was anything but that.
After signing a big deal with the Flames, looking to help the team return to the playoffs and bring the kind of edge he was known for bringing with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, he struggled to score and was inconsistent under former head coach Darryl Sutter. So, along with some of his counterparts like Jonathan Huberdeau, fans had big expectations for him once a new regime was announced both in management and the coaching staff.
I also had big expectations for him, and he met them.

Prediction: Nazem Kadri reaches the 25-goal, 65-point mark

Result: Correct

Kadri has had a track record of success at the NHL level, but his first year with Calgary was uncharacteristic. His durability was on par with previous seasons, as he played the full 82 games, but he only registered 56 points, his lowest total in a full season since 2017-18 with the Maple Leafs. He still managed to stay in the 20-goal category, but his final total was four fewer (24) than the year prior with Colorado. For a team that had other players struggling as well, Kadri being on that list was a major reason why the team did not make the postseason.
It’s also worth mentioning that under Sutter, the team struggled not just on the ice but also reportedly off the ice, making a tumultuous year for everyone surrounding the team even worse. Kadri described his relationship with Sutter as “fine” and talked about rough patches during the season but also mentioned bouncing back.
Nonetheless, we’re not here to discuss 2022-23. We’re here to discuss Kadri’s bounce back! And boy, did it happen.
After he said he was excited for a fresh start, he proved that it was worth it. Kadri hit 29 goals and 46 assists for a total of 75 points. It’s the second-highest total of his career, only behind his final year with the Avalanche, where he scored 87 points in 71 games, and most of those came in the form of assists. The 29-goal mark is the third-highest of his career, only behind 2016-17 and 2017-18, where he scored 32 goals both years.
Part of the reason Kadri found success was because he received the second-highest time on ice of his career (18:26), once again, only behind his final year in Colorado (19:14). But, he also found success because of who he played with during that ice time.
Once Kadri was put in between Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil, they found their stride immediately and became the “first line” for the Flames.
Of 24 line combinations that played at least 380 minutes at 5v5, that trio ranked 16th in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) and fifth in goals for percentage (GF%) by season’s end.
So, what does that mean? Well, even though their generation of scoring chances might not have been stellar (it was still above average at 54.3%, and that was against the other team’s best defensive trio most of the time, while some of the lines ahead of them were not playing great competition), they were still one of the best at putting the puck in the back of the net and not allowing the other team to do it.
Essentially, they found ways to get results on the scoreboard while preventing the other team from doing so, and Kadri was a major part of that.
Checking out Kadri’s regularized adjusted plus-minus chart from Evolving-Hockey, it’s evident that he did outscore his expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60) numbers, which could mean that there is some regression coming. That wouldn’t necessarily shock me, considering his age, but there are some players who can consistently do this depending on who they play with and how they’re deployed.
Kadri also had a very positive impact on the power play, even though the Flames groups as a whole did not score well throughout the season.
It was hard not to notice Kadri as the season wore on. He looked much more energized and engaged than he was in 2022-23. I mean, just look at some of these plays.
Here’s Kadri trying his best to hit 30 goals:
Here’s a great pass through the slot to a wide open Kuzmenko, who was likely shocked that Kadri managed to find a lane:
And here’s the kind of skill Kadri was displaying all year:
Oh, and finally, a nice display of physicality that got the Flames bench hyped and ended up being a big marker for the team during a tough game against the Los Angeles Kings:
If I had no idea who Kadri was and anyone showed me those clips and even a full game, it would be hard to convince me that Kadri is 33 years old.
The Flames needed a Kadri bounce-back, and they got one in 2023-24 thanks to an increase in ice time, consistent linemates, and a little bit of outscoring his expected goals. The hope is that he continues this going into 2024-25, but for now, we can bask in the glow of witnessing one of the best years of his career.
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