Jake Gardiner is a bit of a polarizing player. There seems to be wide spread opinions on him and his abilities among fans.
A lot of people argue that he isn’t good defensively and makes too many dumb mistakes. While he does make the occasional glaring mistake, i.e. waving his stick at a puck 15 feet over his head, I have become a huge fan of his. He also seems to have cut down the volume of mistakes under head coach Mike Babcock and looks confident out there. While confidence is essential in every player, I believe it is even more important for a player like Gardiner. He is most effective when he has the puck on his stick. His edge work is incredible and he is very good at shaking off forecheckers with his quick pivots.
I am probably about to lose some people here by posting a hero chart, but try to stay with me. These “advanced stats” are not quite as advanced as people choose to believe. They’re pretty simple, really. The ultimate goal is to get a better idea of who is driving play when on the ice. Here is a quick summary of the simple stats on a hero chart:
TOI%: Percentage of the game a player is on the ice.
Goals/60: Self explanatory. Represents how many goals a player gets per 60 minutes of ice time (one full game).
First A/60: Amount of primary assists per sixty minutes.
Primary P/60: Primary points are goals and first assists.
After these stats we get into the possession stats, AKA Corsi. First of all, corsi is a very telling stat in terms of uncovering who is driving puck possession. It’s not all that complicated, if your team consistently has the puck more than the other team chances are you’re going to be a good team over the long run. Corsi for percentage is the percentage of shot attempts your team takes on the opposing teams net compared to shot attempts taken at your net while a player is on the ice. All shot attempts are taken into account including blocked shots and shots that miss the net. In short, it represents shot attempt differential. Therefore, if your corsi number is above 50, that is a positive. If it is below 50, that is negative. Most Leafs have had horrific CF% numbers over the last few years. Not Jake Gardiner. He has been above 50% in every season, including being well on his way to a career high this season with a CF% of 58.2%. That is very high.
Back to the chart
Are you still with me? No? Okay great. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but here’s a quick explanation of the possession stats on the chart.
CF60 RelTm: This stat represents the shot attempts a player’s team puts on the opposition’s net per 60 minutes of ice time compared to when he is off the ice.
CA60 RelTm: Represents the opposite. The amount of shot attempts the opposition takes on a player’s net per 60 minutes of ice time compared to when he is off the ice.
CF% RelTm: Compares a player’s CF% to the average CF% of his teammates. Like I said, most Leafs have had terrible CF% numbers over the last few years so this stat is through the roof for Gardiner.
Now that everybody is even more confused by these numbers than they were to begin with (I’m no teacher), here’s the chart.
What does this all mean?
The moral of the story is Gardiner is a very under appreciated asset. Most people probably won’t agree with me on this, but I believe Gardiner is a top pairing defenseman. Keep in mind this chart takes place over the last three seasons, not just this one. He has improved a lot under the watchful eye of Babcock, but he has been driving play for a long time. I think that Gardiner should be kept around for the long haul and that he is a steal at his current cap hit of $4.05 million.