Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Gardiner Season Review

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Nov 4, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) carries the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Joffrey Lupul (19) defends during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


You could use analytics to make Jake Gardiner seem as though he’s the Leafs best defender if you wanted to.

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What you get with Jake Gardiner is a worrisome feeling in your gut when he’s on the ice without the puck, and especially in his own zone. He’s a very talented offensive player who can smoothly skate with the puck around most opponents.

When he’s on the ice the Leafs will get better than normal shot attempts for, which reduces the percentage of shot attempts – and scoring chances – against. That’s a benefit of Gardiner. Does that mean he’s the best defender Toronto has? No, but it means there’s something special to work with.

His possession relative to the team has always been a positive number – which goes back to his offensive talents.

That relative number has declined since the lockout shortened season but, in his defence, his quality of competition has trended upward.

Gardiner has always out-performed his given role from an analytics view, but he’s also never been consistently given a prolific role on the team. His dCorsi60 was down from 8.05 to 6.42 comparing 2013-2014 to this season. Again, in his defence, this year he found himself playing a bigger role than usual, but still not on a consistent level given the coaching change.

2014-2015 was for Gardiner, as it was for most in Toronto, a down year. It was particularly more frustrating for Gardiner because he was poised to break out. Now we have to wait yet another year for Gardiner’s game to hit the next level.

The positive here is that should he tighten up his defensive zone work in the slightest he immediately becomes a player Toronto shouldn’t dare consider trading.

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