Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner
29-Year-Old DefensemanD
Toronto Maple Leafs
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Gardiner is really, really good. He's just really, really hard to watch. Leafs fans only remember his brain burps in Game 7 against the Bruins last postseason. Minus-five. Two giveaways. Every pass seemed to miss and he was the poster boy for bad decisions with the puck. When Jake screws up, it's not just big -- it's huge. But no one remembers Gardiner was Toronto's best defender for games one through six, and that his 52 regular-season points put him in a tie with Morgan Rielly for the team lead from the blue line. And a tie for 15th in the NHL. Bottom line? Gardiner is a phenomenal advanced stat player. The Leafs out-chance, outshoot and outscore the opposition when he's on the ice. Gardiner is a great-skating, offensive defender in his prime who must command your fantasy attention. Just don't watch him or you might lose your mind. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a five-year, $20.25 million contract extension with the Maple Leafs in July 2014.
MRI on back comes back clean
DToronto Maple Leafs
June 11, 2019
Gardiner (back) is healthy heading into free agency, reports TSN's Pierre LeBrun.
ANALYSIS
Gardiner played in the first round in obvious pain, but avoided surgery and LeBrun revealed Tuesday that the defender's MRI has now come back clean. There are rumors of where Gardiner will land in free agency and he might even re-sign in Toronto. But the latter isn't possible until Mitch Marner's extension is signed. Regardless of where he lands, Gardiner will remain a top-four, puck-moving defender with very good fantasy value.
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2018–19 Time On Ice Stats
  • Average Time On Ice:
    21:13
  • Average Power Play TOI:
    1:52
  • Average Short-Handed TOI:
    0:08
 
Ice Time
Power Play
Short-Handed
2016–17
21:32
2:32
0:19
2017–18
22:32
2:04
0:22
2018–19
21:13
1:52
0:08
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2009
Gardiner's game has grown exponentially under coach Mike Babcock and he's coming off his best pro season ever. His 43 points were 12 more than in any other season and his plus-24 was an incredible 39-point swing from the season before. Those 43 points put him 17th in league scoring from the blue line ahead of guys like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Gardiner's best games -- especially in his own zone -- were those when he was paired with newcomer Nikita Zaitsev, and this duo looks like it could be a strong second pairing for years. This stability in Gardiner's role, with Zaitsev or newcomer Ron Hainsey, should allow the fleet-footed, creative defender to flourish even more. Yes, he'll still be prone to an occasional defensive lapse, but those can be forgiven since he’s a possible 50-point NHL defender that helps orchestrate one of the league's most potent power plays.
Mike Babcock as the head coach was exactly what Gardiner needed for his game. The slick-skating, two-way defender can skate like the wind and is far better in possession than the eye test beholds. Gardiner was always tagged with the dumb-as-a-stump moniker and it held him back. Maybe he still is, but it doesn't show nearly as much. Babcock used Gardiner in ways last season that allowed him to play to his strengths in a huge way. Now, he's viewed as a stalwart in the top-four and he's sure to better his career mark of 31 points this season. And let's be honest – Gardiner has learned how to not only survive, but thrive in the nosiest hockey city in the universe. Fantasy wise, he should bring you 35 points (with about one-third on the power play), 125 shots and 100 hits. Just keep an eye on that plus-minus – many leagues still count it despite its poor reflection of individual performance. And the Leafs won't be good enough for many guys to be sitting in the black in that category.
Gardiner is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. He’s a darling of the advanced stat-heads who say he’s one of the Leafs’ best in possession. But he’s just another brain cramp away from the doghouse when you watch him on the ice. Hockey sense is the big gap in Gardiner’s game – he just doesn’t think the game well at all. He’s blessed with rover-like offensive talent that should have delivered 40-plus points in 2014-15. Instead, he regressed to just four goals, 20 assists and a minus-23 rating in 79 games. Diminished expectations for the whole Leafs squad this season could be the best thing that could happen to this talented defender – it could be the ticket to regaining his confidence. And playing for Mike Babcock might just help him learn to manage his in-game decisions a little bit better. Still, he's not worth a significant investment outside of deep formats.
After spending the first half of 2013-14 in coach Randy Carlyle's doghouse, Gardiner finally broke the chain and was arguably the Leafs' best defender in the last month of the season. He picked up 12 points, including five goals, in his last 14 games, looking every part of an emerging stud. Now with a massive contract extension tucked in his jock, Gardiner is ready to take his game to the next level and it should happen this season. He'll get a shot at the spot on the top pairing vacated by Carl Gunnarsson and get a gig on the first power-play unit, too. He could deliver a 50-percent increase in scoring this season; a total of 45 points is certainly possible. It'll come with lots of mistakes, but the bottom line is simple: you can't get offense without taking some risks. We'll take the mistakes that come with that because the fantasy output will be downright delicious.
Tremendous skating ability? Check. Elite vision? You betcha. Great offensive instincts? For sure. And a couple defensive disasters a game? Sadly, yes, but even that part of his game really is steadily improving. He struggled between the AHL and NHL last season after suffering a brain knock on a blindside hit on Dec. 8, but he really picked things up in Round One against the Bruins ... to the point where he was arguably the Leafs' best player in an OT loss in Game 4. Every team needs a guy who can skate the puck out of his own zone, create space for himself and his teammates, keep cool under extreme pressure and deliver on the power play. The sky is the limit for Gardiner, starting this year.
Ooooo baby, this guy was hot last season. He eliminated all thought that his hockey sense was subpar and he went on to be the Leafs' best defender in just his first season. He's poised and patient, with elite vision and wheels. That combo is going to catapult him into the fantasy elite in a couple years. We don't expect that proverbial sophomore slump to hit -- he was way more productive under Randy Carlyle (11 points in 18 games) than Ron Wilson (19 in 57). Forty points and top power-play time beckon this season. Then it's up, up ... UP.
Gardiner is a thoroughbred on skates who the Leafs believe was the real haul in the Joffrey Lupul deal with Anaheim. He’s big, blistering fast and can effectively QB a power play. But he still has some growing to do in his own end, particularly on his intensity and decision making. He made the jump to pro after a stand-out sophomore season at Wisconsin and will need a few seasons in the AHL to learn the pro games and add some muscle. Keeper leaguers should monitor him this year before taking the plunge -- he needs to prove he can think the game a wee bit better before we’ll anoint him the next Paul Coffey. Or even anywhere remotely close.
Gardner is a thoroughbred – this kid can fly. He converted to the blue line just three years ago so he definitely has a offensive mindset. But his mindset is the thing that could hold him back. We’ve heard whispers about his lack of hockey sense but time will tell. He will head to college and should spend several years there. He's a long-term investment.
More Fantasy News
Does it all in loss
DToronto Maple Leafs
April 22, 2019
Gardiner dished out an even-strength assist and had three hits and four blocks in Sunday's 4-2 loss to Boston.
ANALYSIS
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Slow to get timing back
DToronto Maple Leafs
April 4, 2019
Gardiner (back) played 16:51 Thursday in a 3-1 loss to the Lightning in his return from injury.
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Back in tow
DToronto Maple Leafs
April 4, 2019
Gardiner (back) will return to action Thursday against the Lightning, Paul Hendrick of the Maple Leafs' official site reports.
ANALYSIS
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Hoping to play Thursday
DToronto Maple Leafs
Back
March 29, 2019
Head coach Mike Babcock hopes that Gardiner (back) will play two games before the end of the regular season, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
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Wearing non-contact sweater
DToronto Maple Leafs
Back
March 25, 2019
Gardiner (back) skated in a non-contact jersey at Monday's game-day skate, Jonas Siegel of The Athletic reports.
ANALYSIS
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