Carlyle on Gardiner scratch: ‘Jake drew the short end of the stick’

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More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Toronto Maple Leafs made Jake Gardiner a healthy scratch on Sunday, though critics were mostly silenced after a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers. Head coach Randy Carlyle (kind of) explained the decision to sit Gardiner after that victory, according to the Toronto Sun.

“We had a round table (with the coaching staff) and we felt we wanted Franson back in the lineup,” Carlyle said after the Leafs’ 6-3 win over the Rangers. “Jake drew the short end of the stick.”

After playing about 19-and-a-half minutes in Toronto’s season-opening loss against the Montreal Canadiens, Gardiner topped all Leafs with 23:04 of ice time in an embarrassing loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gardiner registered a -2 rating, and while his possession stats have been solid enough, he only managed an assist in two games despite starting a whopping 70 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.

The #FreeGardiner crowd was already largely muffled by a spirit-raising win last night and it’s clear the team sees big things for the 24-year-old after handing him a five-year, $20.25 million extension this past summer. The young blueliner told the Toronto Sun all the right things about his development process days later, too.

“He is a coach that likes to push his players and get the most out of them,” Gardiner said of Carlyle. “I think that was what he was doing with me.

“I have a lot more potential than what I’ve been doing. I think (Carlyle’s approach was) good for me. It will help me down the road.”

Perhaps things aren’t so rosy between Gardiner and Carlyle off the record, but the bottom line is that one game in the press box doesn’t signal a crisis. Things might heat up a bit if he’s a healthy scratch against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, however.