Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Gardiner Is Un-Touchable (and Good at Defense)

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 14: Jake Gardiner
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 14: Jake Gardiner /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that can cause some pretty emotional responses.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost game seven to the Boston Bruins, and like the great leader that he is, Jake Gardiner took the heat off his teammates by taking the blame onto his own shoulders.

He need not be so hard on himself.

With apologies to Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner is the Leafs best defenseman. (Guess who else thinks so? Mike Babcock who plays him two minutes more per night at 5v5 than Rielly).  In game seven, he may not have had his best game, but he really wasn’t that bad.  Minus Five you say?  Great band.  Poor statistic.

Plus Minus is a widely discredited statistic that should have no bearing on player evaluations.  Gardiner didn’t have a particularly good game seven, but no one on the Leafs did.  Freddie Andersen especially.

Funny that no one is calling for the Leafs to trade or buy him out.  Andersen let five goals in while Gardiner was on the ice.  With Gardiner on the ice, Andersen had a 66% save percentage, meaning he was only able to stop two-thirds of the shots instead of the expected 92% of them.

If Andersen  plays even just  a bad game, instead of an absolutely brutal game, Jake Gardiner is a minus 2 at worst and no one blames him.

Gardiner put up a 52 point season. He was fourth in 5v5 points among all defenseman, and if he was on the top PP unit, he’d have approached John Carlson’s total points title.  (While playing way better defense. )

Reputation Doesn’t Mean Anything

Gardiner was just under 50% CF despite playing on one of the worst shot-suppression teams in hockey.  Among Leafs defenseman who played 40 + games, he allowed the least amount of shots per minute of ice-time.  He allowed the least amount of goals per minute too.

Let me repeat that because you probably didn’t hear me:


Sorry for screaming, but people keep saying he’s “bad at defense,” when that is objectively wrong. I fail to see how that is possible when he is the player on the team who allows the least shots and goals against.

The thing is, he sometimes gives the puck away and goals go in.  Then everyone points it out, it’s on Twitter, the highlights etc.  Every #1 defenseman in the league is guilty of this. But using it as evidence that Gardiner is somehow a bad player is called “confirmation bias” and it’s a human phenomenon that everyone suffers from which means that you remember things that confirm what you already believe.  But Jake Gardiner is not bad at defense.  That is a myth.

What is a 52 points defenseman who leads his team in all defensive categories? An untouchable superstar.   Gardiner deserves Norris Trophy consideration.  John Carlson is nominated, and Jake Gadriner is the superior player.

Next: How Far Are the Leafs From the Cup?

To sum up: Jake Gardiner is one of the best defenseman in Toronto Maple Leafs team history.  (restricted to players I actually saw play at least).  Borje Salming.  Tomas Kaberle. Jake Gardiner.   He is not only an offensively gifted player, but he’s actually good at defense, despite his reputation.  He allowed the least shots and goals out of anyone else on the Toronto blue line when he was on the ice.

He has only one year left on his deal at a bargain price of $4 million.  One of the Leafs top priorities should be to get him extended as soon as possible.