Jake Gardiner is a player the Maple Leafs like a lot, but he’s struggled to stay in their lineup this season. Why? Leafs coach Randy Carlyle believes he’s not living up to the defensive part of being a defenseman.
James Mirtle of The Globe And Mail hears it from the Leafs coach about how he’s trying to get the best from Gardiner while not discouraging him.
“He’s got to be better defensively,” Carlyle said after practice. “It’s as simple as that. We’ve asked him and he’s very well aware of the expectations. The games mean too much. Right now, we’re not in a development stage. We have to win hockey games.”
Gardiner is more of an offensive defenseman than anything. His ability to handle the puck and create scoring chances is at an NHL level for sure, but the combination of the Leafs’ success and his struggles in keeping opponents at bay have kept him in the press box.
Mirtle goes on to say Gardiner isn’t going back to the AHL this season, so he’s got that going for him. Learning on the fly in a playoff race, however, has to be tough.