Jake Gardiner Makes His Teammates Much Better

As everybody knows, September is Jake Gardiner Appreciation Month.  I kicked off JGAM by writing about how, contrary to popular opinion, Gardiner is actually very good defensively.  As I discussed in that piece, Jake has had pretty big, positive defensive impacts over the past few seasons, comparable to some of the better defencemen around the league.  This time around I’m going to talk about another area where Gardiner’s impacts are impressive: how he lifts his teammates.


One of the most impressive things about Jake Gardiner is how virtually every player who spends time with him sees their results improve.  I’ve gathered a list of all the players who have played at least 200 minutes at even strength with Jake over the past three seasons.  I calculated what you could call their “Jake Rel”, which is the difference between their Corsi when they play with Gardiner vs when they’re playing but Jake’s on the bench.  For players who at least one of the last three seasons with the Leafs and at least one with another team, I’ve included only the seasons where they played for the Leafs in their “Without” statistics.  Unfortunately, since Hockey Analysis only does splits by seasons, not by team, for years in which a player was traded mid-season (like Roman Polak this year), I’ve had to include all data for that season (ie. Polak’s “without” numbers include his time in San Jose).

Let’s start by looking at Leafs defencemen.  I’ve coloured players who were at least 1% better with Jake in green, while players who were at least 1% worse in red.  (All data in this post comes from the very useful Hockey Analysis.)

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Player CF% W/ CF% W/out Jake Rel
Phaneuf 51.0 43.8 7.2
Franson 49.0 46.5 2.5
Rielly 53.7 46.6 7.1
Polak 46.5 48.0 -1.5
Ranger 44.1 41.6 2.5
Holzer 45.5 41.8 3.7

The results are pretty stark.  Of the six defencemen who have played at least 200 minutes with Gardiner over the past three seasons, five of them have seen significant jumps of at least 2.5% in their shot attempt ratio when playing with Gardiner.


Now let’s take a look at forwards using the same criteria.

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Player CF% W/ CF% W/out Jake Rel
Kadri 51.6 47.9 3.7
JVR 49.9 44.4 5.5
Bozak 50.4 44.4 6.0
Kessel 48.5 43.4 5.1
Lupul 46.1 42.8 3.3
Holland 49.5 45.0 4.5
Clarkson 48.7 41.5 7.2
Komarov 55.6 48.3 7.3
Raymond 49.3 41.2 8.1
Winnik 50.7 50.5 0.2
Parenteau 52.6 53.9 -1.3
Smith 47.2 42.3 4.9
McClement 44.7 35.7 9.0
Panik 53.6 44.6 9.0
Kulemin 45.0 39.9 5.1
Santorelli 47.3 47.6 -0.3
Booth 54.2 43.5 10.7
Grabner 55.4 47.7 7.7
Matthias 48.3 48.0 0.3

This is where Jake’s impact becomes really clear.  Of the 19 forwards who have played at least 200 minutes with Gardiner over the past three seasons, only one had a Corsi that was worse by over 1% when playing with Gardiner.

Not only are almost all of these players better when playing with Jake, but most of them are much better.  Seven of these players are at least seven percent better, which is an exceptionally large jump, while a few more are at least five percent better.

In my last post on Gardiner I looked at his CA/60 Rel to show how good he is at reducing shot attempts relative to his team-mates.  And while those overall numbers give us a nice snapshot, I think breaking down the impact on a player-by-player basis like this helps make it clear just how big and consistent Gardiner’s impact is. 

Virtually every player who’s spent any significant stretch of ice time paired with Gardiner over the past few seasons has seen their on-ice results improve considerably.  Jake Gardiner makes the players around him better.

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  • Harte of a Lion

    Gardiner is a perfect partner to help Zaitsev adjust to the NHL. I think the idea was to have Zaitsev on the top pairing with Rielly especially since Babcock has been working to help Morgan become that #1 guy on both sides of the ice. There is a chance that Gardiner and Zaitsev become a dominant pair and the coach leaves them together.

  • LukeWarmWater

    How about as much detail analysis into how often Gardiner cough’s up the puck or makes a crucial bone head play. Yeah, yeah , yeah I get it that he skates miles between the blue lines. So a guy with so much offensive skills of handling the puck, where are his goals???, where are the all the assists. Why do teams key on Gardiner in his zone to drive him through the boards to pick up the loose puck. Bottom line I’ll know the leafs are a strong Stanley cup contender when this guy is at best our fourth best defencemen.

    Intelligent leaf fans realise that the two number one defencemen in minutes played in the team North America and team Russia game last night were Reilly and our new prospect Zaitsev. This will under Babcock be your number one pairing come October.

    • HockeyKeeperKit

      Seriously, what is with some of you people and your hate-on for Jake? Obviously you totally dismiss all advanced stats so I’ll lower myself to your level. As for boxcar stats, the kind of stats you say are missing for Jake, he was tied for for 46th in the league last year in points. Assuming for 30 teams, that put him right dead middle in scoring as a top-2 defenseman. For comparison, that’s five points behind Aaron Ekblad, two point behind wonderkind Colton Parayko, 1 point behind Dion Phaneuf, and tied with Seth Jones. Pretty decent company I’d say and probably all but one of those players you probably dream nightly about the Leafs trading for. He also played less minutes per game than everyone but Parayko on that list. Hardly “4th best” on the Leafs.

      Sure, he isn’t a destroyer of worlds in his own end but that is not what he is paid for. Get your brain off the idea that Gards is supposed to be some sort of Lidstrom type who is literally great at everything defensively. You notice him losing the puck all the time but that is simply a matter of him HAVING the puck all the time. It’s called sample size. That’s like complaining that, similarly, Gardiner shoots wide of the net more often than, say, Polak. Well guess what? He should because he had nearly double the amount of shots last year. But that’s only double. Gardiner carries that puck at least double the amount of time Polak would or really anyone other than Rielly so your “eye-test” puck losses are easily explained.

      Give the guy a freakin’ break…

    • Ben

      So you haven’t seen Gardiner play since his rookie season, I take it? This ‘Gardiner is super risky/sucks’ meme needs to die. Just watch the guy this season. You’ll find the number of times he makes the smart, effective play is magnitudes greater than the number of times he makes a mistake.

  • Marty

    Jake Gardiner is horrendous defensively. I’ve watched a lot of the leafs and he is flat out terrible in that respect. there’s no stats that should make you believe he is defensively competent if you simply watch the player. he’s a good athlete, skater and puck mover, but he’s not a hockey player yet and certainly not a reliable defenceman. the positive is he has the talent to still become one and having experienced rock bottom the last several seasons should help him develop his game and confidence to one day mature into a serviceable defenceman.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Jake is a good defenceman. Babcock had him and Rielly both working on the defensive side of the game for the first half of last season. I keep reading from commenters here how 22 year old Morgan Rielly is not really a top defenceman. Team North America has a different opinion.

    “Team North America’s head coach names defenceman Morgan Rielly the best player on his team.”

    • LukeWarmWater

      Exactly Luke as was pointed out both Reilly and Zaitsev had the most ice time of any D man in the Russia v.s. team north america game. The guy is developing into a stud and teamed with Zaitsev will give the leafs a top two for the first time in years. Btw thanks for showing us 2 of Gardiner’s seven goals. Yesiree you agree with me that his defensive game isn’t there and his offence produces 7 goals despite a hell of a lot of ice time. Okay you guys are right I’m wrong, he is a top defenceman, except team U.S.A. doesn’t think so.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        I wouldn’t go as far as to call Gardiner a top defenceman yet. I do think he is a good second pairing Dman. Let’s not forget before Babcock came on the scene there was little backcheckidng to help out the defence. The other three defensive positions are up for grabs as soon as the prospects are ready. That is likely next year, even though I would love to see one of them crack the lineup this year. It is definitely going to be interesting to see who Babcock has Zaitsev playing with. I think we should have a killer power play this year. That always makes other coaches nervous. I kinda like that.

  • Tigon

    Luke, common bud, you cannot be serious. I’m sure you remember the Leafs and fans running Larry Murphy out of town, let’s not do that with Jake. And from what I see, it won’t happen.

    And remember when Stralman wasn’t good enough either? Traded for the grand sum of a 4th and an expired Wayne “not the good” Primeau. And then Calgary was dumb too and traded him to NYR if I’m correct who actually let him play his game and not be someone he wasn’t – the next Kaberle people thought and hoped.