Jake Gardiner Leafs Fan’s New Whipping Boy

Has Jake Gardiner played well this season?

Not particularly, but it’s not like he’s been horrible. OK, for argument’s sake, let’s say maybe he has been. But if that’s the case, I don’t know what kind of assessment you’d use to describe Robidas or Holzer.

I didn’t come here to give you an assessment of Gardiner’s play. I don’t think he’s been near as bad as people are making him out to be, but those people are not going to read anything I write and change their mind, so I’m not going to bother.

What I want to say is that people ought to lay off.  You chased Larry Murphy away. You put ridiculous blame on Brian McCabe and Dion Phaneuf was never close to as bad as you said he was.  Neither is Gardiner.

Some examples:

https://twitter.com/RTFurnish/status/544255994222899200

https://twitter.com/jonrumley/status/544254320146149376

Now, again, I am not saying that Jake Gardiner has been lights out. Far from it. Bet let’s get some perspective shall we:

1. Jake Gardiner is 24, skates like the wind and has all the talent in the world. I reiterate: He’s 24.

2. Leafs fans are enamored with the breakout of Cody Franson. But Franson is 27 and Gardiner is further along in his development now than Franson was three years ago.

3. Gardiner – according to his possession stats and many experts – was either the Leafs best player or close to it in the second half of last season.

4. His contract was actually a stroke of genius since if he plays anywhere close to last seasons level for the duration of it, his $4 million cap hit will be  a bargain. An incredible bargain, actually. And there is no risk since he’s easily tradable at that price. To call it the worst move of the guy who signed Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson……

5. The Leafs – winning streak or not – are not a legit Cup contender and thus, as long as he’s learning and developing, set-backs and errors should be lived with since this season is all about developing guys like Kadri, Gardiner and Rielly, whether or not anyone wants to admit it.

6. Kolbinian Holzer is not an NHL defensemen at this date and time.

Conclusion:

The Leafs have an enigmatic player in Jake Gardiner but they also have a talented player. He will either grow into a solid pro for the Leafs or he’ll be moved in a trade to help them get better now. I don’t think he’s quite ‘untouchable’ (but he should be considered close to it) and if the right trade came along, I’d be fine with it, depending on the return. What I have a problem with is people screaming every-time he makes an error. Pointing it out, calling talk-radio to complain about him, and all the while not realizing in anyway that they are watching the games and seeing pretty much only what they want to see. He does make errors, some of them are frustrating as hell – but you live with them because his potential is so high. The point is, it’s embarrassing and unbecoming of the fanbase to engage in this kind of group-think pariah-making nonsense.

He’s a good kid, he’s 24. He doesn’t need to be made an example of and he doesn’t deserve to be bullied or blamed. And, honestly, for a team that has had such a historical problem developing  players, you think we’d be patient with talent when we have it.

You want a good team that competes every year? A good start is not to throw someone who skates like Gardiner does under the bus.

Gardiner, as recently as 30 games ago, looked to be taking his game to another level, and in just three short months time he’s gone from prized prospect to being run out of town. If the team was fighting for first place and every point was a matter of grave concern, I would at least understand it. But the Leafs aren’t winning anything this year so I say just relax and lay off.