Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri has been making the most of his time on the first line.

Patience with Kadri should still be a priority for Leafs

In the past 40-odd years, the Maple Leafs have traded away enough young talent to make unfamiliar fans believe that jettisoning skilled players, and not winning Stanley Cups, was their stock-in-trade.

For too long, Toronto has been an NHL bus station of sorts, a departure point from which many hockey talents have moved on from to win championships in other cities. So as media speculation regarding centre Nazem Kadri’s future with the franchise has grown, you can see why fan unease would spike.

Once again, the trees are obscuring the forest in Leafland. Yes, Kadri has struggled this year, but we’re talking about a 23-year-old four years removed from being drafted. Very few his age are able to dominate the way some believe he should as a high first-round pick. Look around the NHL and you’ll see how long it often takes for prospects to develop.

To wit: Kadri was picked seventh overall in 2009. Three years earlier, the Islanders selected winger Kyle Okposo with the seventh pick. In 2011-12, Okposo emerged as a force with a 24-goal year, but in last season’s lockout-shortened campaign, he scored just four times. It would have been easy for Isles GM Garth Snow to move him, but he didn’t. And this year, Okposo is on pace for a 33-goals and 80-points. Patience pays off.

This is why GM Dave Nonis is adamant he’s hanging on to youth and skill. Toronto doesn’t have enough of it as is. Of course, Kadri or any of his young teammates could be dealt if the return was an equally talented youngster.

But a trade for change’s sake is the last thing Kadri or Leafs fans should ask for.

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