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Is it time for the Maple Leafs to consider trading Jake Gardiner?

When Francois Beauchemin played for the Maple Leafs, it too often seemed as though we rarely saw the player we thought we were getting from Anaheim.  He played hard and sometimes well, but he was not always the decisive, at ease player he had been in his earlier life with the Ducks.

Interestingly, when the veteran defender returned to the Ducks after his relatively brief stay in Toronto, there were suggestions coming out of Anaheim that he had indeed lost his confidence during his time with the blue and white. (He wouldn’t be the first player that has happened too, unfortunately.)

Since returning to the Ducks, Beauchemin has become a go-to player. He’s a team leader, a minute-eating defenseman for Bruce Boudreau, someone who takes on important responsibilities on the Anaheim blueline.

So while Leaf fans probably shouldn’t say we “won” the trade that brought Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner here, I sense that’s how most of us have felt since the deal was made.  Leaf followers like myself probably didn’t think much about the deal at the time. Beauchemin had struggled here for the most part, so his loss was not a big deal.  Lupul was an often-injured forward some observers figured may have already seen his best days.  Gardiner was a relative unknown to many of us, but we soon came to realize that he was a very talented young player.  That Lupul also found new life with  the Leafs provided the sense for a long time that it was a great trade for us—and in many ways it has been, despite the team’s lack of success since they were acquired.

Gardiner soon became a player fans built our hopes around, someone who has wheels, who could seemingly skate away from trouble, much like Tomas Kaberle in his early days.  His defensive deficiencies were evident, but we assumed those things could be worked on.  Gardiner was awfully young, gifted, and had a bright future.

Fast forward to the present.  Gardiner is still young (24), and still can wheel with the puck. While he has been a healthy scratch at times in his Toronto tenure under Carlyle, you have to figure the  brass still thinks highly of him.  My guess is that any time Dave Nonis talks on the phone with a rival GM, and Nonis indicates he’s looking for a battle-tested forward (center?), the response is something along the lines of: “Sure, let’s talk.  We'll take Gardiner and…”. 

That has no doubt ended many a conversation from Nonis' perspective.

Those who have followed VLM over the past few years will know that I loathe the idea of the Leafs trading away young defensemen.  Why?  Well, you really can never have too many defensemen, especially if you think you are any kind of serious playoff contender.  You need serious depth to make a playoff run because attrition through injuries and spotty play is inevitable.

But more than that, I simply don’t like the idea of giving away defensemen only to see them achieve their potential somewhere else. (While tempting, I won’t go through what I see as a list of young Leaf rearguards who, over the past forty plus years, have either not been developed properly here, saw their careers curtailed by injuries while they were rushed into the lineup or were dealt away before they achieved their promise…)

Having followed Gardiner’s young career in Toronto, there are some things I have been on the lookout for.  Acknowledging he still does things that make me want to “believe” in him and his potential, it feels (maybe only to me) that he continues to hit the same wall a lot of the time, while trying and doing the same things that create the same old issues.

So my question is, and I know many will see this as a non-starter, but: should the Leafs actually seriously consider (if they haven’t already) trading Gardiner?

I say this with the following things in mind:

  • He has not played 300 games in the NHL, a threshold some coaches and experts talk about when assessing defensemen.
  • I indicated in a post this past summer that it was a relief that the Leafs had kept Gardiner and were building with a young, mobile defense.
  • This consideration on my part has nothing to do with the often-stated premise that the Leafs don’t need two “offensive” defensemen (i.e. Rielly and Gardiner).  All things being equal, keeping both could work, in my view.
  • We/I may look back and say, “we shouldn’t have traded him”.
  • While he is a talented guy, I feel as though he has a limited offensive “bag of tricks”.
  • While defensemen typically mature later and can have long, productive careers, it’s beginning to feel that the little signs I was hoping to see in Jake’s game are not materializing.
  • He will never be, it seems, a physical defenseman, and that’s fine.  But you need to be hard to play against, and you can’t give the puck up easily around your own net without a battle.  Too many times (at least in my mind) we see Gardiner give up the puck in a one-on-one situation.
  • It seems, again maybe only to me, that the coaching staff has tried for years to work with him.  Yet he continues to do his own thing and play “Lone Ranger” too much of the time.
  • Gardiner is already making more than four million a year.  I guess that’s a “fair” contract for the team, given that the cap will increase. But it’s still a big ticket for a player that may not become a rare offensive talent and is not a premium defensive player.
  • More importantly, is he a guy who the coach (whether Carlyle or anyone else) will want on the ice in the final 60 seconds of a close game?
  • You do not have to be super physical, and certainly not a big hitter, to be a really good NHL defenseman. But again, you do need to compete hard against the other team’s forwards, and especially so along the boards, in front of your net and in the defensive zone.
  • I could be wrong, but I believe Gardiner is considered a strong "possession" player.  But do possession stats tell us the full story when a defender coughs up the puck under mild pressure that turns into a goal?


Gardiner has his admirers, I realize.  I’ve often made a case for giving him the time to become what Leaf fans hope he can and will be. Just last night against the Rangers (I write this before the Ottawa game on Sunday night) he assisted on Komarov's late winner, which meant two big points for the Leafs. 

So while I’m not necessarily advocating that he must be dealt, I will say this: I think you only build a winning team with players that buy-in to the team premise.

This Leaf squad, it seems to me, is filled with individually talented players.  Forget the decade plus between playoff round victories and the not-very-strong rosters of the past.  While we still lack the overall roster skill to maybe compete consistently with the NHL's best teams, we do have a number of NHL players who, in the right roles, can be effective, I believe.

But, when we look at the very recent past -and the present roster- and assess the players who have been on this team for the past two years or more (Phaneuf, Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Reimer, Bernier, Kadri, Lupul, Clarkson, Franson, Frattin, Holland, Ashton, Komarov, Rielly and Gardiner) do we have the sense that this is a group that, individually and collectively, has the ‘will’ and desire to do the hard jobs required to win in today’s NHL?

Skill is immensely important.  You can’t win without it. Gardiner and other Leafs have that.

But you need more than just skill to be victorious on a consistent basis in any of the major team sports. I believe character, grit, team play, hating to lose and work ethic are still huge factors in success in sports.

My point again is: we need a team of guys who ‘buy in’ to the team ethic.  That means following the system, even if you think it may not be best for you individually. (I assume, if there are serious issues about systems play, the veterans would go to the assistant coaches or to Carlyle directly and have that conversation.)

In saying all this, it's clear Gardiner is hardly alone in terms of his defensive zone play. And he is certainly young enough that he could well take giant leaps forward in the years ahead.

Yet when players make the same mistakes over and over, or seemingly refuse to modify their approach to playing the game even when the coaches tell them to do so, I begin to question whether that player really wants to be here on anything other than his own terms.

I am nowhere near close enough to the Leaf situation to know where Gardiner fits in all this.  I know what I “see”, but beyond that, I’m out of the loop.  Is he coachable?  Is he truly doing everything the coaches are asking of him?  Is he dedicated to improving his play in his own zone? Is he realistic about the kind of player he is?  Have we, as fans, over-rated his offensive skills, and potential?

If Gardiner were moved, would Leaf supporters look back and say, as I noted above, "We should have kept him?". Or might the prevailing view be: "We traded him at the right time, while we could still get a very good return that helped build a winning team...?".

As always, there are more questions than answers.  But I’m thinking the time may be that the Leafs should consider moving this asset, while he is still seen in the hockey world as someone with immense promise. 


On a team where there should be few, if any, untouchables beyond Rielly, it's a discussion that might be worth having.

48 comments:

  1. Michael,

    This for me expands upon the discussion that you were having on the most recent MLHS Hangout episode. I for one, am incredibly tired of the mediocrity that this franchise puts out each and every season. It's time for the Leafs to start over, there is no chance this group of players and prospects are going to compete for the Stanley Cup before Kessel et al are retired.

    Yes, by all means trade Jake Gardiner, as long as it isn't Nonis deciding what is fair return. As soon as someone capable is running the ship, trade all of them.

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    1. I raised this issue today, Jim, precisely for the reason you cite: we, as fans, maybe need to stop over-rating our own players, and look at them through the eyes of rival talent evaluators. Can we really win anything of significance with this group? I'm not sure we can.

      That doesn't mean there isn't talent; there is. But there are so many other things required as well. Thanks Jim.

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    2. I guess more so now than ever before, maybe it's all the knowledge of the farm system prospects as well as what they are likely to get in the draft position that is reasonable for a middling team. I am having an incredibly hard time getting excited about a team that will be lucky to make the playoffs, get our asses handed to us, and make another mid first round draft pick that can have potential and never utilize it.

      Is it just me or has Nonis really handcuffed this team long term? Phaneuf, Gardiner, Clarkson, all overpaid in the opinion of most outside observers. Kadri, Rielly, Bernier, Franson, are all going to be looking for raises in the near future. I get that you have to pay for talent, but you can't overpay and have your team under perform.

      I think the underperformance bothers me more than anything. Lots of guys on this team are first round picks. We always talk about the team in terms of nice players, and we do have lots of them. The Leafs never seem to get more than that, and thats a problem, in my opinion.

      Loved the Hangout, and as always love your work here. Cheers

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    3. I sense a lot of Leaf supporters feel the same way, Jim. It's a low bar, and the players don't push to achieve what really should be closer to the team's potential. We only see it in fits and spurts.

      Thanks for the good words about the show!

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  2. Jake should be traded for either picks or a top flight centre.
    Ive never wanted him to become a bruising type of defence man but more like Brian Leetch. You don't have to slam a guy against the boards but properly block him out or lean against him to make it harder for him to drive the net.
    After 4 years of playing pro Jake hasn't got it yet, Morgan Rielly vary rarely makes the same mistake twice & is farther ahead of Jake in development. This makes me to believe that Jake does not have the hockey IQ needed to make the next step up.

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    1. Hi Gregory- management will have to determine if Gardiner has the overall determination to be the player some think he can be. Like you, I don't expect finesse players to be something they're not. That said, it's important to play well in your own zone.

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  3. Hi Michael,

    funny enough the Beauchemin from now is the type of player we are missing.
    Burke traded for Gardiner. A guy he drafted. He had to take Lupul because the Leafs had the money to bury him on LTIR or in the Minors. Nobody thought he would play again.

    Sometimes you make it very hard for me and I have to think about the things you wrote and it takes some time to write an answear. But this one is easy.

    THE ANSWEAR IS YES! YES! YES! TRADE HIM IN ANY CASE!!!!!!

    After last season I had the opinion that Gardiner can not stay with the Leafs. You convinced me with the idea of keeping him during the summer. But 14 games into the season, it is clear what has to happen.

    The "posession" stats for sure don't tell you the whole story.

    The System is okay it is only about executing it.

    The issue with Gardiner is he won't take giant leaps. The things he has problems with have to come naturally. And they didn't. And he will never learn.

    I said it before and I say it again: Gardiner has to be traded!




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  4. Gardiner is a funny one, Michael. I like Gardiner. He may have been our best player at the end of the year. I sometimes wonder if he lacks confidence at the beginning of the season and re-gains it as the season moves on. I'm not sure if Jake benefits from being benched and centered out in this way or if this just eats a hole in that confidence, especially when we see the many mistakes others are making. I also do not see Jake as a forward, though some would like to see that.

    Carlyle is said to have spoken to Nonis when the trade rumours were floating around and said it's far too early to think of trading Jake. He's certainly a piece other teams want and mobile Dmen are more important to the team than in the past. I'd rather keep him unless someone very special is offered back and I'd not lose him for a much older player no matter who it was.

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    1. I understand your view, Colleen.

      Despite some suggestions to the contrary, while Carlyle gets frustrated with Gardiner, he may well like him a lot as a player. I would like to see Jake make the adjustments the coaching staff is looking for.

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    2. Michaelhe can not an d he will not make these adjustments. His main Problem, the missing hockey sense can not be cured.

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  5. Yes Michael you are right, as I said before over-rating and under-valuing (in other cases) is an issue here. A big issue!

    We have a lot of first round picks other teams didn't want and the ones we picked badly. And Morgan Rielly.

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    1. This question may cause a lot of debate, Marcus!

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  6. I wonder if we might be viewing Gardiner through the lens of his new contract (much the way Philadelphia may have seen JVR... as a cautionary tale). If Jake was on a bridge contract, would we give as much thought to his gaffs and healthy scratches? However, the very fact that any potential trading partner sets his value for their team and knows his contract (term and amount) which makes him a much more quantifiable 'object' for acquisition (and valuation on the 'return' for the Leafs).

    If we don't undervalue his potential (and the same is found in a trading partner), then there may be some benefit to considering a trade to fill other needs (1C perhaps). Another part of the argument is that Gardiner is already older than JVR was when he was traded to us (Gards is only a year younger than JVR is now), so his flaws may be more 'settled' than we'd like to admit.

    I'm not sure he's a real 'thinking' man who is breaking down his play and 'figuring it out', so we'd have to defer to those that know him better. And that, in a nutshell, may open the door to a trade.

    If we could start to see some of the gaffs limited, then I'd be happy to give Jake more time... I hope he gets the message. It seems to be working with Kadri's maturation - he's been a far more noticeable 200 foot player this year (and I'm quite sure the offense will come back, too).

    The other thought is that Gardiner may well thrive in another system more tailored to his talents, whereas I'm not sure Randy is willing to bend that far... guess we'll have to see how much the coach and management have in common, eh! I often wonder if a trade would be the 'wake up call' that he may need for his own development, which may not happen without such an eventuality. The question then becomes will we receive equal value on that happenstance?!

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    1. Equal compensation- that's difficult to assess, for sure, InTimeFor62. How much could the Leafs get for a young defenseman with a ton of promise, but one that isn't quite meeting expectations?

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  7. I think before bailing on Jake, and potentially taking a lesser package for him based on how his year has started, I would let the Leafs' coaching situation (fiasco?) play out first. There definitely seems to be a major divide between Carlyle and Gardiner, and I don't think many of us see Randy being a long term solution behind the bench for Toronto. That's not to throw Randy under the bus, as his gripes with Gardiner are legitimate, specifically wanting him not to give up on plays so easily in his own end. Jake has a nonchalant approach on some shifts (not entire nights usually, just shifts), so it's fair game for Randy to get more than a little hot under the collar with him.

    Having said that, Gardiner is a fast and smart 24 year old defenseman, and I don't think anyone sees him getting any worse, so it's probably just upside potential, with a major heap of fine tuning involved. I get that uneasy feeling with Jake (more than with Kadri, but that's just me), that he's going to figure it out, and I'd rather that happens in a Leafs uniform, as opposed to watching him successfully quarterback a Rangers powerplay, for instance.

    It's sad that so many of management's player decisions are solely based on defending contracts they've signed players to under their watch. I would look at Phaneuf as a bigger issue, in terms of being that "stud and leader" he was signed to be, but is prone to as many on-ice gaffs as anyone on the squad. Nonis and company don't want to address that 800 pound gorilla in the room, so the lesser likes of Gardiner and Kadri seem to eat up all the negative attention from them. I guess that's where we and the media should be vigilant, and not offer any free passes.

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    1. You've touched on the conundrum facing management, Russ- it seems logical to keep the player who is young and should get much better. Yet some guys don't ever get where they are supposed to go.

      Your point on Phaneuf is one to ponder as well. Some players are treated differently than others, in that mistakes they make will never see them benched. And to a certain extent that's only fair, in that veterans, as long as they are working hard and maintain a positive attitude, won't be benched for a poor game, etc. So it is often the kids who get called out publicly by a coach, because he is usually much more careful in his dealings with veterans.

      And I hear you on the coach/player reality. Maybe Jake would thrive under a different coach. On the other hand, if he is unwilling to make adjustments, no coach will have patience for that.

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    2. Jake's Problems have nothing to do with the Coach. Jake has all the problems the Scouts saw in him before he was drafted

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    3. I suppose a veteran is what he is and, as long as he is working hard and playing to his ability, scratching him won't accomplish anything. I get the impression the Leafs believe that Jake still has loads of untapped potential if he can just find a way to make better decisions. They wouldn't be so frustrated with him if they didn't truly believe he can be a much better player in a few areas of his development.

      I don't know, as Marcus mentioned, that you can change the way a player thinks or sees the game but maturity, at least in my experience, does often result in calmer, better decision making. (Improved logical thinking occurs around age 26!) We have some very good defensive prospects close to moving up but I don't think we have one that projects the same possible "upside" that Gardiner seems to have or that they believe he has. I'm hoping, with Hunter's addition to the organization, they make the right decision here, whether it's moving or waiting it out.

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    4. These are tough choices for management, I'm sure, Colleen. It's obvious Gardiner has skills. But how much better will he get? That's the four million dollar question, I guess.

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    5. Colleen , if you are 24 and you play on that level and you lack hockey sense an decission making it is very hard to get on track there, nearly impossible. You can tell people certain things but that's it.
      It is a talent, and not everybody is eaqually gifted in that regard. And Gardiner is not talented in that way. Percy is.

      And there is a diffrence between this hockey sense and decission making and the thing you discribe that comes with maturity.

      The mistake against Arizona that resultet in the Goal this is something (aside from his defensive problems) that can be aproached diffrently with maturity, perhaps.

      But the situations I always describe to you where it comes to a good decission making in a way of hockey sense, that is very difficult and will not get better with maturity.

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    6. You can see the difference when you look at Percy, in spite of his youth and lack of NHL experience. He keeps it simple, is smart with the puck and learns quickly. Turnovers, of course, happen all the time but a Gardiner turnover is always a doozie, isn't it Marcus? I don't know how long the Leafs can live with that. I'm neither for or against moving Jake just hoping for a smart decision.

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    7. And that is the diffrence, you can see it with Percy and it has not so much to do with experience.

      Yes a Gardiner turnover is always a doozie!

      I think Shanahans decissions were all smart til now.

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  8. Leafs Fan in MexicoNovember 9, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    Title of this Post – Trade Gardner and Reimer for an Uncle Leo-type who can also score 60+ points because who really wants to get our “our assess handed” to us every other year we manage to crawl into the playoffs.

    There is a mighty fine and hard to determine line between when a guy is better dealt than kept. Especially when the guy has talent that could later blossom to bite you in the proverbial.

    But the question ought not to be whether we risk getting bit or not, but if a trade will make us happy even if the guy we trade blooms elsewhere.

    The demarcation is, as it has always been, trade value maximization.

    So, do we need a trade? Most would agree this core is already where it is always going to be. The upside is defined. We also probably agree this group’s got some talent but not the young talent it once was. Time is not on our side, so what better moment to risk trying to make this group better with a “significant” addition?

    So, yes, to answer your question Michael, yes I would trade Jake without hesitation. On the Leafs’ roster he is probably most interesting to others and expendable (enough) to us. But Jake's brand is known by GMs the league round, and there’s no way we get “significant" on his trade value alone. A package is required.

    The only guy we could trade without compromising the core, and, for various reasons, be attractive to others, is Reimer. I would do it too, but only for a proven 200 foot never say die impact player (centre?). This guy needs to be a not-too-young but not-too-old vet to max the three or four year shelf life left on the core.

    Is a guy like this available for R and G? I am a Leaf Fan in Mexico, I have no idea!!! Besides I am an economist so its all theoretical for me.

    Thanks for the great place to muse!

    Post Script: Riemer is a darn good goalie and as gracious a young athlete as I can remember. But the hole up front needs plugging and we have another good goalie. Besides, Riemer deserves to be a No 1 as much as he doesn’t deserve some of the garbage thrown at him by a few fans and pundits over the last couple years.

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    1. Thanks for posting, Leafs Fan in Mexico. Hard to know what the "right" answer is. In truth, there is no right answer. The Leafs have to determine how much they want to keep Gardiner, and if they are considering a move, what they can realistically net in return.

      My leaning is to move him, for the reasons I cited in above. But that does go against my conventional thinking about trading away young defensemen.

      As for Reimer, I realize some Leaf fans don't like him, but I have been a Reimer guy from the get go. I'd still like to see him get an opportunity to be the top guy elsewhere, since he won't likely get that chance here.

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    2. sounds like grabovski

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    3. Michael, in truth there is a right answer, but we only get to know it long after a trade is or is not made!!

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  9. There isn't much to add to what you and other posters have already said - indeed what we have in Jake Gardiner is a frustrating young defenseman that, on the on hand, has immense offensive upside and a set of skills that make him, in Carlyle's words, 'a special player', but, on the other hand, continues to be a liability in his own end with his giveaways and at times cotton-like softness.

    He has played this way for quite a few years now and it is not surprising that many of us are starting to wonder if there is something wrong with his brain to prevent him from learning from his mistakes - whether he's dumb (lacking in 'hockey I.Q.) or stubborn or 'uncoachable'.

    It may well be the case that he will remain the same player and never change his game, but even if that were the case I wouldn't be so quick to trade him if the return is not great.

    Watching Eric Karlesson last night and in some of the Sens' games and highlights over the years makes me hesitate on Gardiner - for all his faults he does seem to have some defensive acumen and does, at times, look pretty big out there (like in the last 20 games of the last season and for stretches before).

    Also, if he is at all coachable, I believe that Peter Horachek is the man to do it. I'd wait and see - give him some time with Horachek and those 300 games. But then again, if Tavares or Stamkos or someone of their ilk could be had I would not hesitate to pull the trigger. As they say - no one is untouchable.

    Whatever we may think and say here, however, is inconsequential - what matters is what the Leafs' management is going to do and I think that, in this case, I may be able to develop an informed opinion based on an anecdote that I will now relate.

    Namely, a little less than a year ago Cam Charron, then a blogger at leafs nation website and now a part of Shannahan's analytics team, wrote that Gardiner was the Leafs' best defenseman. When I asked him if he was serious he responded with a rather detailed article that essentially shows that, regardless of his defensive blunders, more often than not, 'good things happen when Gardiner's on the ice' - the team happens to play more in the offensive zone and shots for and against ratio (which is what Corsi and Fenwick are) is better than when he's not on the ice.

    Now, Charron's argument rests on the crucial exclusion of the fact that Gardiner's been given very favourable starts (offensive zone starts) and has been sheltered otherwise (almost never out when the Leafs were trying to close out a close game) etc., but none of this matters as much as the fact that the people who now have the ear of the big boss in Toronto believe in Gardiner. And don't expect too much resistance from Carlyle and Nonis either - the former is the one that believes in the 300 game rule and has played a very similar game to Gardiner's in his playing days and the latter was Burke's right hand man when the kid was traded for.

    This story is what answers our question and the answer is a resounding 'no' - Jake Gardiner will not be traded - statistics geeks who were hired by Shannahan to improve the team love him and he's going nowhere whether we like it or not. All we can do is hope that it works out.

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    1. It seems as though the debate way well continue in Leafland, leafdreamer. If he were traded, many fans will wonder if it was a mistake.

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  10. Yes, you could argue Gardiner is still young at 24 but he is not a kid anymore. You can argue his skating is outstanding. But what he does not have and has shown since day 1 is a lack of "hockey sense". And you just cannot teach that any more than you teach a plugger "good hands" so he can score more.

    And he has shown a bad tendency this last year and even more this year. Instead of using his great skating skills on puck retrieval in his own end he is throwing more snow than an Alberta Clipper coming over the mountains. He got absolotely smoked in Ottawa again yesterday because he slowed and held up instead of going after the puck and making the guy miss because of his speed.

    Gardiner is starting to remind me like a bigger version of Marc Andre Bergeron. Trade him while there is still value to get.

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    1. I see the arguments on both sides of this fence, Pep.I guess the real question is: what is management's view?

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    2. Pep is absotutely write with the hockey sense.But you are right we do not know the management's view.
      But I know one thing. Shanahan will use the analytics department to make things better for sure. But he won't make player decissions only based on analytics.
      You may not forget that Shanahan knows what a player and a team needs to win.
      He won three Cups with the Wings and they all pulled their weight and they were not soft at all. And if he thinks gardiner is bailing on puck battles and refuses to take a hit to make a play and he thinks Gardiner has not what he needs he will make a decission even if the analytics guys think otherwise. But I think Dubas has a good view and he knows how to use analytics practically.

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  11. I would not do it...yet.

    I think there are a few things that you could do to maximize Gardiner's trade value. I'm not sure that you can change Gardiner's thinking process quickly. I would work on three simple things:

    1. Gardiner has to use his speed to come back on the play with as much effort as he goes forward. Sometimes he is a lot slower chasing a guy back up the ice. That needs to end and Carlyle and whole staff can demand more.

    2. Gardiner needs to hit guys occasionally. Opposing players leave themselves wide open to bone crushing hits because they know he won't hit. That needs to change. Gardiner needs to use his speed take advantage of a couple opportunities to the throw a hit per game. The coaching staff needs tot set some goals. The way guys leave themselves open now, he will destroy somebody and the whole perception of him in the league can change with just a few hits.

    3. They should give Gardiner some practice time and the occasional shift as a forward, especially when they play 7 defensemen. I am not saying convert him to a forward, just use him that way occasionally. Give him a shift to run up the ice as a winger. It may invigorate him. It may add a new dimension to his game and add value when it comes to trade time. There are guys in the league that can play both positions and it doesn't seem to have hurt their trade value. Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Burns spring to mind. Both those guys would command high value at trade deadline.


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    1. Thanks DP- I think we all recognize you can't ask a player to be something they're not (assuming effort is a given). But if Gardiner could make just a few adjustments, perhaps including some of the items you mention, how much better might he be? He has to play within himself, of course. But it feels like a few tweaks would make him a better defender.

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  12. Hi Michael,

    On balance, I say wait. The general point about defensemen maturing later is one based on decades of observation, why would we choose to believe Gardiner is some kind of special case? I realise he has the misfortune of maturing alongside Rielly and suffering by the comparison, but if either of them appears to be abnormal in their maturation it's the latter, and for the better, obviously.

    When I add to that my ongoing, serious misgivings about Carlyle as a coach, keeping him would be my preference. Marcus' point about Carlyle not being responsible for Gardiner's issues, that they were scouted accurately long ago, may well be true - I don't claim to know - but a different issue altogether is how Gardiner might fare under a different coach with different communication strategies as well as on-ice tactics. The thought of Gardiner clicking with a different coach (added to the even odds Carlyle doesn't last the season) is enough of a teaser to add to my list of reasons to hold on to him.

    I'd add that I'm not convinced that all of the glaringly visible errors behind his own goal line are solely his responsibility and that it's these mistakes that have those fans going cold on him reaching for scarves and gloves. The entire team seems disorganised behind our own net - it's the single most maddening thing about this year's team for me - and Gardiner's not the only one looking lost and rushed when he's back there. So it may well be something systemic or missing in their preparation, who knows. Certainly the rest of his game is looking just fine for a developing D-man with a high ceiling to me.

    Having said all that, the numerous comments above about us still looking little better than a first playoff round punching bag are ones I agree with. If an offer too good to refuse came up for a genuine 1C, I'd pull the trigger on just about anyone, with it being no reflection on their developmental curve, current performance or choice of haircut.

    Cheers all

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    1. I appreciate hearing your perspective, KiwiLeaf. I think most of us agree Gardiner certainly has talent. What we're perhaps debating is whether he will reach that high ceiling that some project for him and whether he can do that with the current coach.

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    2. Talent is the most useless word. It's the NHL. Everebody has talent. But, what is Jake doing with his talent?

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  13. Hi Michael:

    While I have come to respect many on VLM, I believe that some are losing their perspective thru their frustration with the Maple Leafs organization - Jake Gardiner is just a handy scapegoat, although it wouldn't hurt for him to get in the way once in awhile.

    This team is not one smart trade away from being a Stanley Cup contender!!!!!!

    Sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees. There is a huge opportunity right around the corner. The best advisor (sic) would be a foreign exchange specialist who knows where the Cdn. $ is going. It looks like the value of the Canadian dollar is going to have a major influence on the ability of the top teams to keep many of their best players as the cap is not likely to grow as predicted!!! Thus, some teams will get an opportunity to upgrade their rosters very selectively. Those teams that have handled the cap intelligently will be in a very strong position. Unfortunately, Nonis has made a number of mistakes in the past that will hamper Leafs chances to jumpstart a significant upgrade - the lack of thoughtful cap control could come back to haunt them. Example: Contracts like Toews, Kane, Subban are going to kill depth on many teams. Thus, It is highly important that the Leafs get in position by the end of the year to upgrade the core of the team.

    While trading Gardiner may be part of this process, there is much more to gain. It is time for Shanahan to earn his money.



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    1. Good to get your perspective on this as a long time Leaf follower, Ralph (RLMcC). I would certainly agree we need more than one "move" to get into a position to be a serious contender.

      The Canadian dollar has indeed quietly slipped over the past while, though it's not in the zone that was part of what saw Quebec and Winnipeg lose their teams many years ago. But something to keep an eye on, for sure.

      You're right about contracts- while the cap is going up, having manageable contracts on hand will surely be key going forward.

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    2. Michael:
      You seem to be missing my point? CAP IS NOT GOING Up, and many GMs have made decisions based on their belief it was going up. This will create havoc which will force decisions they may not want to make. In order to keep expensive player (e.g. Chara), they must get rid of other good players (Vets and rising players) who would look good as Leafs. Unfortunately, Leafs have overspent on a number of players, and this needs to be corrected "toute suite", or they will lose an opportunity to make greater strides than normal.

      My fear is that Financial (cap) management has never been a strong point of Leafs (Nonis). Unfortunately, being a rich team does not bring advantages in a cap league. The agile, prepared teams have a rare opportunity that does not often come along. There is an opportunity, if done right, to fill DP's glass.

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    3. I see your point now, Ralph. The Bruins have faced that dilemma, having to move some solid contributors.

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    4. The new cap guy seems to know what he is doing.

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  14. Hi Michael,

    this season is going on for a month and we are doing basically the same thing we did the whole summer in length, we are dissecting the same players over and over again. We had Gardiner twice, we had Dion and the goalies.
    I like to speed it up a little so here is my question: Who's next ?

    Don't answear. Keep the question and the article and only change the name.
    Or in other words: Kadri's next.

    Nearly the same dilemma applies for him. Is it time for the Leafs to consider trading Kadri?

    A few weeks ago you wrote that it is time for Peter Holland to show he belongs on the team . I answeared that I never doubted he belongs and that he will show and that he is playing on a 4th line that didn't get much time and has not a good mix of players only consisting of players that are not experienced on the NHL level. But now we see a very diffrent picture, Holland and Panik are given spots on lines with more experienced players and more minutes. Now Holland is able to show what he brings and he is good, as I always said. Puck management and decissions are very good on both ends of the rink, his play is very consistant and he will be an important part of the future. But this means that something happens what I suggested here before, Holland is pressuring Kadri for the second line spot. And until Kadri is busy talking to the press about his talent level being the same as Tavares's and that he only has to get his work ethic going, Holland has a good chance to win this spot.

    I will keep the rest on Kadri for your actuel articel. I can not fire all my wisdom on one piece only.

    Let me end this with a question from my best buddy our goalie who is a Leafs fan too: "There are two guys on the Leafs that have to go in any case! Do you know who?" I said:"Yes, Jake Gardiner and the guy you ask after every game if he has actually played, Nazem Kadri."
    "You're absolutely right!" he answeared.

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    1. I, too, have noticed Holland's play, Marcus and well recall your earlier observations about him.

      I'll think on your Kadri comments. Any Kadri discussion will create debate, no question.

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    2. Kadri might be more polarizing than Gardiner :)

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    3. I wish I had some wisdom to fire! When it comes to trade/keep speculations, I generally find myself sitting on the fence. Maybe I'm just "not quite there" as far as placing trust in the Leafs management, especially when it comes to evaluating or trading assets, though I find I do finally have some hope.

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    4. Yeah Pep, I was a bit suprised that there are so many posts on that matter and throwing Kadri in the mix could add to that, I thought.

      Colleen the trade market especially in the cap era is a very diffrent animal. I don't know what the real market value of these to would be, centers and D man are highly saught after but I don't know what their market value is right now.

      We don't know what the Leafs think, I don't know what Shanny thinks, we will see.
      As Ralph said we are more than one trade away and the real question is what Shannys concept is after the season. Perhaps this season won't happen a lot but after this year there must be some kind of plan in place.

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  15. If concerns exist over his future as a defenceman, why not try him as a left winger? In my view, he has the speed and skills and hockey smarts to make a difference there. Red Kelly made the move rather successfully although he was a pretty good defenceman too.

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    1. My guess is management is committed to Gardiner as a defenseman, Ed. You're right about Kelly- a great defenseman who made a successful transition to centre.

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