Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner has been in Randy Carlyle’s doghouse before. There was even a Twitter hashtag, “#FreeJakeGardiner,” that caught on at one point.
But even Gardiner’s biggest fans are having trouble sticking up for his play this season. And based on what Carlyle said today, the 24-year-old could be a healthy scratch, replaced by Korbinian Holzer, Saturday versus the Flyers.
“I think Jake’s been very erratic,” the coach said, per the Canadian Press. “Simple as that.”
Audio of that quote:
Last night in a 4-1 loss to Carolina, Gardiner logged just under 20 minutes of ice time and finished minus-2. On the Hurricanes’ first goal, he lost his man, Chris Terry, in front of the net, and Terry was able to score:
Gardiner signed a five-year, $20.25 million contract extension this past summer; however, his future in Toronto remains somewhat uncertain. If the Leafs end up re-signing pending unrestricted free agent Cody Franson (a big if, mind you), might they opt to trade Gardiner while giving more responsibility to youngsters Morgan Rielly and Stuart Percy? Remember that Toronto also has d-men Dion Phaneuf, Stephane Robidas, and Roman Polak under contract past this season.