It’s time to talk about everybody’s favourite Leafs defenseman. Whether you think he’s a much better defenseman than his haters think, or you think he’s a much worse defenseman than his fans think, Gardiner is always a hot topic among the fans, and that’s no different this offseason. While he had a career year, he also finished it with one of the worst games of his career, that being his performance in Game 7 against Boston, so bad that it had him as one of the most popular buyouts on CapFriendly for a few days.
Regardless of his final performance, let’s dive into his entire season.
At this point, if the stats haven’t already painted the picture for what Jake Gardiner is, I don’t know what will help you. He’s a defenseman who will put up points, and always perform well possession wise, usually relatively better than the rest of his team. Amidst all the Morgan Rielly hype this year, Jake Gardiner also put up 50+ points, with 52 points this season, and a lot more of them coming at even strength, with 31 points coming at 5v5. As for his possession numbers, it’s business as usual, although he had a bit of a rocky start and had many asking what was happening to him. But, don’t worry, he’s fine.
Feel free to fight me over this, but I personally don’t see anything wrong with Jake Gardiner’s season. He set a career high in points, albeit more to the skill in front of him and not his own, but he’s still good, and defensively he was his good old self, despite the fact that he was usually only playing with Polak, Zaitsev, and an inexperienced Dermott on his offside.
Yes, he was bad in game 7. We all have bad days at work. His just came at a really bad time. Even then, I’ll take the one really bad game if it means that we get the other 88 games in the season and playoffs of him playing like his usual self. He had a great season, and I’d take him on my blueline at his current contract and cap hit for the performance that he usually brings.
So, that’s how he earns his A. He’s a fine student, that Gardiner kid.
Remember this game? The one where the Leafs took a 5-1 lead in the first, blew said lead, only to then score three in the third and win 8-5. That was a fun one. To cap that game off is this beautiful Jake Gardiner goal, which is the most Jake Gardiner goal of all time. He glides down the ice, scouts out his options, and then with the snap of his fingers, goes flying through three Rangers and snipes it past Henrik Lundqvist. Yeah, it was on the power play, but it was still fun.
According to NHL.com, in 2015-16, Jake Gardiner had a 100% faceoff win percentage. Move over Bergeron, we got ourselves a new faceoff expert!
I honestly have no idea what to expect with Gardiner going into next season. Mostly because I’m not sure if he’ll be on the team next season. Not that I’m one of those people that want to trade him for his game 7, nor do I think Kyle Dubas does either, but I could see the Leafs shipping him to get a right handed defenseman, especially if Gardiner expresses no interest in re-signing with the team next year when his contract is up. Not that I want to trade him, but if you can improve on the right side by doing it, I’d explore it.
If he’s on the team next year, I’d expect the same old Jake Gardiner. Maybe not the 52 point Gardiner from this season, but something in the 40 range would certainly be fine, and his usual defensive performance as well, although it’d be great if he could tidy up those brain farts.
But, knowing our luck, he’ll put up a Norris like season in his contract year. No complaints, just means we probably won’t be bringing him back.