With another workday nearly done at Wednesday’s Leafs practice Nazem Kadri made like a short-order cook. Using the blade of his stick like a spatula he picked up a puck and repeatedly heaved it high into the air.

The disc went up. The disc came down. And Kadri though he attempted to catch it like an artfully tossed fried egg never could manage the trick.

Speaking of futile pursuits let’s consider Kadri’s not-so-handy work in Toronto’s 2-1 loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday night. Centring a line comprising enforcer Colton Orr and grinding winger Carter Ashton Kadri played all of 13 minutes in Toronto’s first defeat of the season. The Leafs are only four games into an 82-game season. It’s early. But it’s interesting to note that in two of the past three games Kadri has been buried deep in Toronto’s forward rotation.

In Philadelphia last week Kadri took all of 17 shifts and played a little less than 12 minutes. As a point of reference first-line centreman Tyler Bozak averaged about 30 shifts and 22 minutes a game last season.

Four games into the season Kadri who signed a two-year deal worth $5.8 million on the eve of training camp is averaging 14:35 per game — ninth among Toronto forwards and third among centremen. To put that in perspective Kadri finished sixth among Leafs forwards in ice time per game last season when he averaged more than 16 minutes a night and was the team’s second-leading scorer with 44 points.

What’s behind the early demotion? Maybe it’s simply Randy Carlyle running the ultimate meritocracy where no matter one’s status or potential every Leaf is held to an unflinching standard. Carlyle spent Wednesday refusing to speak specifically about individual players insisting that the entire team needs to improve.

“When your team game isn’t as strong as you’d like it to be and the number of turnovers that we’ve had and giveaways that we’ve had — I think we’ve got a group of players who can improve” Carlyle said. “I’m not going to start to single individuals out four games into the season but we all know we have to be better.”

Not to single out Kadri but the entire team didn’t get tossed on a line with Orr and Ashton on Tuesday night. And it just so happens No. 43 is leading all Toronto forwards with eight giveaways.