Jake Gardiner has gone from being one of Toronto’s most important defensemen to one of its least-used ones.
And he doesn’t really know how it happened.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Gardiner Told the Toronto Star. “I feel like I can definitely contribute. I’m going to do whatever the team needs to win.
“I’m just going to try to contribute any way I can.”
The 22-year-old blueliner has appeared in just eight games for the Leafs this season, failing to score a goal while registering just two assists.
It appears he doesn’t have the trust of head coach Randy Carlyle, who has repeatedly made Gardiner a healthy scratch lately.
(As diagrammed in my impressive Gardiner chart):
Mar. 26, 3-2 win over Florida: 21:09 TOI, one shot, minus-1
Mar. 28, 6-3 win over Carolina: Healthy scratch
Mar. 30, 4-0 win over Ottawa: Healthy scratch
Apr. 4, 5-3 loss to Philly: Healthy scratch
Apr. 6, 2-1 win over New Jersey: 16:27 TOI, plus-1
Apr. 8, 4-3 win over New York Rangers: Healthy scratch
Do keep in mind this is the same Gardiner who, as a 21-year-old rookie last season, played 75 games, finished second among all Leafs defensemen in scoring (30 points) and averaged 21:35 a night.
This season, he was derailed by a concussion suffered while playing for the AHL Marlies in December. But he says he’s at full health and ready to contribute — the latter of which Carlyle doesn’t agree with.
“He’s a young player and I’m not going to put him in situations he can’t survive,” Carlyle explained. “That to me is the most important thing with our young players.”