On moving Jake Gardiner to forward

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That’s the face I made too, Jake.

So here’s what we’re losing our minds over today. Apparently the Leafs have discussed moving Jake Gardiner up to forward. Here’s why it might be good, why it might be bad, and why – let’s be honest – it probably won’t happen.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!?

The quote about Gardiner’s potential move to forward originally came from Dave Nonis’ face. From his face, it traveled into Toronto Sun writer Steve Buffery’s brain by way of his ears and then took a stroll on down to his fingers where it was then transcribed and later published.  A News Editor at The Score, Ian McLaren, consumed this quote with his eyes and then wrote a piece on it. Soon after, I saw the quote and now I’m writing something on it.

I JUST SAID WHY WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IT JAMES. I JUST SAID IT. SHUT UP AND LET US HAVE SOME FUN. UGH. I’d go all Dave Bidini on you but gosh what if somebody recognizes me?!?

Anyway…

THE GOOD

The main positive about this for me is that Jake Gardiner would remain a Toronto Maple Leaf. Regardless of what you think of him as a player, Gardiner’s skillset is undeniable. What’s encouraging about this to me is that even if the Leafs aren’t totally satisfied with Gardiner as a defenceman, they at least recognize that his level of raw talent isn’t something you see everyday and it’s certainly not something you’re likely to replace via trade. Anything is possible but you’re taking a mighty risk in trading Jake Gardiner. 

Besides – Gardiner’s a great offensive player. What do forwards do? Offence. What’s not to like?

THE BAD

The fundamental flaw in moving Jake Gardiner to forward is the idea that he’s a bad defenceman. Look – he had some horrific giveaways this past season. Wild passes, whiffs at the puck, bad pinches or bad reads. You name the defensive blemish and odds are Jake has that defensive blemish. Many people forget something: He’s 23. You show me a capable offensive defenceman under 25 years of age (there aren’t a lot of them) and I’ll show you a guy that probably coughs up the puck a lot. There are exceptions to the rule but they’re rare.

Beg your pardon while I Corsi for a second but I should probably mention that Jake Gardiner was the Leafs’ best possession player this past season. He ranked highest in CF% and CF% rel at 5-on-5. He’s not perfect, and I’m not sure why we expect him to be at 23, but the numbers are quite kind to Mr. Gardiner.

THIS ISN’T HAPPENING IS IT?

No… I mean maybe. It’s Toronto, right? Probably not though.

Back in 1985 the Leafs selected a young scamp used to being a defenceman and said “Hey kid, hows about you play forward for our team?” and it worked out great. That scamp was Wendel Clark. In recent memory, not too many defenceman-to-forward success stories pop into my head. The only two I can think of immediately are Ian White, who eventually switched back to defence anyway, and Wade Belak to keep some muscle in the lineup. This isn’t a player just looking for a roster spot. This is Jake Gardiner.

Remember the big fuss about JVR playing centre shortly after the Leafs acquired him? That didn’t happen… Well, it didn’t happen until it did, but that was because half the centres in the Leafs organization were either hurt or suspended. Did that little experiment work out? No it very did not.

WRAP IT UP, STEVE

Realistically, it doesn’t seem like this is going to happen. Dave Nonis’ full quote on the matter seems relatively dismissive. It’s fun to think about though and the fact that the Leafs have even talked about it at all is at least somewhat interesting.

What say you?

    • Bertly83

      I’d say Red Kelly or Fedorov or even Housley are better examples of D to F conversions. In recent memory,I think Buff is probably a better example then Burns.

      I agree with the main point of this article. Gardiner has the potential to excel at his position and i’m not sure if that would be the same if he were to switch to forward. His unique skill set can make him a norris trophy winning D-man and rushing his development is probably not the wisest move.

    • Bertly83

      I’d say Red Kelly or Fedorov or even Housley are better examples of D to F conversions. In recent memory,I think Buff is probably a better example then Burns.

      I agree with the main point of this article. Gardiner has the potential to excel at his position and i’m not sure if that would be the same if he were to switch to forward. His unique skill set can make him a norris trophy winning D-man and rushing his development is probably not the wisest move.

  • TGT23

    Don’t do it.

    There are lots of Marlies that can play forward that deserve a better chance than they got this past year.

    Spencer Abbott was good for better than a point a game in the AHL last year: 69 points in 65 games. I know he small, so bring up Abbott against the smaller, softer teams. I think Abbott only has one more year and 58 games of waiver exemption, so now is the time to give him a good look. Maybe he can even have a midget fight against Gerbe or Zuccarello.

    You could also give Leivo and Smith another look. I am hoping Holland, D’Amigo and Ashton make the team.

    Against the bigger and tougher teams, like Boston, bring up Broll and/or Carrick or Devane.

    Come on Randy, use that farm team and the waiver exemption rules.

  • Bertly83

    Bad idea. And speaks volumes, and truth, about what the reality is – David Clarkson is a third liner they agreed to pay $5.25M/per for 7 years.

    Would you really remove 31 points from your blue line? Tied for 2nd highest scoring, 1st in goals, d-man on the Leafs.

    You cannot move him up to play third line in favour of Clarkson on the second.

  • Bertly83

    Not to be picky or anything but if you’re strolling down the Wendel memory lane, wasn’t Gary Leeman drafted as a defenceman too? All he did on moving to forward was score 50 goals. It’s funny now that the Hound line had two former d-men as wingers.

    I can see Gardiner doing some time on the wing if the leafs go with a 7 d-man configuration as they did on the back end of the season. But I wouldn’t “convert” him to the wing.

  • Bertly83

    Hey I am huge leaf fan. But the leafs aren’t winning anything anytime soon. What could it hurt. Throw him some time on the second powerplay unit and as well, check it out in the preseason. Risk a little. I know he his is only 23 but he seems to be a little risky defensively on the back end. Roll the dice Dave. Oh ya, you too Brendan.

    • Bertly83

      It hurts his development and his value to the Leafs and trade market.

      He already has second PP time, unfortunately, behind Phaneuf and Franson.

      Risky? Every under 25 makes risky plays or mistakes. I thought that was part of the development process from the organization and learning on the players part.

  • TGT23

    This doesn’t make any sense… Take a team who is defensively deficient, take their 2nd best young d-man, and make him into… What? 3rd line defensive winger? 2nd line? Why?

    It doesn’t serve a purpose.

    All it does is make Gunner, Gleason, and Franson take on more minutes they haven’t earned and the team cannot afford for them to have.