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.
Jake Gardiner last played forward in high school. He played 21 minutes a night on D in the NHL last season. Why are we talking about this?
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 19, 2014
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?!?
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 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?