Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Jake Gardiner; A Ray of Hope
In a Maple Leaf season that has turned into a nightmare, one of the few surprises and bright spots for the future is rookie defenceman, Jake Gardiner. Obtained last season from Anaheim with Joffrey Lupul in exchange for Francois Beauchemin, Gardiner was a bit of a surprise in making the Leafs out of training camp. Gardiner was drafted 17th overall by the Ducks in 2008 and spent three years at University of Wisconsin.
Gardiner currently has 26 points in 69 games played this season and is a solid +1, tied with Luke Schenn as the only Leaf defender not in the negative. He also appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses with 17 points and a +3 in 34 games since the New Year. In fact, Gardiner has an outside shot at becoming the first Maple Leaf rookie rearguard to tally 30 points since 1982. As it stands he has the most points as a Leaf rookie defender in 30 years.
As an 18 year-old, Jim Benning collected 31 points in 1981/82 a year after putting up 139 points with Portland of the Western League. Prior to him, the last Leaf rookie defencemen with 30 points was in 1973/74 when Borje Salming had 39 and Ian Turnbull 35.
Only two other rookie d-men in Leaf history have managed at least 30 points. In 1968/69 Jim Dorey had 30 while playing in only 61 games and in 1943/44 Elwyn 'Moe' Morris had 33 in a 50 game season. Gardnier has already surpassed two notable Leaf rookies of the past. In 98/99 Tomas Kaberle played in 57 games and recorded 22 points and in 84/85, 18 year-old Al Iafrate had 21 points in 68 games.