Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but another mistake from Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner ended up with the puck being deposited in the back of his team’s net… again. The 27-year-old blue liner has a history of turning over the puck at the worst possible time, in the worst possible position or simply missing assignments. As was the case last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Gardiner left Blue Jackets forward Lukas Sedlak ALL ALONE in front for the game’s opening goal. Ugly stuff.
Shortly after a Gardiner giveaway on the PP led to a shorthanded goal from Jackets defenceman Seth Jones. Even uglier.
It’s clear that Gardiner has missed the stability provided by usual defence partner Nikita Zaitsev, who finds himself on the IR. When asked where he missed Zaitsev the most, Gardiner was blunt. “Basically everywhere… penalty kill has been huge,” said Gardiner. “He plays the most minutes of anyone. That chemistry that we had before… it’s tough for not only me but for everyone.”
Gardiner did manage to find the score sheet though, scoring a beautiful goal to bring the Leafs to within a goal. That was a close as they’d come though and Gardiner himself admitted that the goal was nothing more than petty redemption for his mistakes on the first two goals against. “Yeah, anytime you think it’s your fault you want to make a big play,” he said following the game.
So, what’s your call on Gardinder’s play this season? Sure he can push the pace at times and make good plays, but are his defensive mistakes worth the risk? Should coach Mike Babcock sit him out for a game or two? Get him to watch the game from the press box and get his head in order?