DENVER — It's hard to think about what could've happened to the 2021 Presidents' Trophy winners, if one moment didn't happen.
"We missed him last year in the playoffs," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said about Nazem Kadri.
Veteran forward Kadri hit Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in game two of the opening round of the playoffs, in what he described as a "bang-bang" hit. The vicious play took Faulk out of the series and served Kadri with an eight-game suspension from the league.
Now, one year later, Bednar said Kadri is a completely different player.
"He's worked extremely hard at controlling his emotions and biting his tongue at times and really trying to put the team first," he said. "This year he could be a huge difference maker for us."
Kadri finished the regular season with 87 points on 59 assists, both career highs for the top-six Avalanche forward.
"His game has gone to a new level on the offensive side and I think that's because his game has gone to a new level on the defensive side of the puck," Bednar said. "The physicality that he's played with, the discipline that he's played with, and most importantly the consistency that he's kept those levels at all year, he's having a career year."
That career year could be capped off with a King Clancy Memorial Trophy, given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
Kadri was nominated for his work with the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
"He shows that passion when he plays for us and anything that he chooses to get involved in, he goes all in," Bednar said. "He's a passionate leader. He wants to win, he's a vocal guy in the room and on the bench and I'm sure he takes all of the characteristics that we see to all of his projects outside of the game to help grow the game."
And to help give his reputation the makeover he's now earned.
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