"Jake’s been excellent up to this point," coach Ron Wilson said. "I’d have to say he’s been the biggest surprise of training camp. Everybody’s been enticed with his speed, for sure. Sometimes his speed actually gets him in trouble, but he has a knack of finding holes and getting out of those situations."
That was October 3rd, today it's a different story. After being "the best defenseman of the pre-season", Jake Gardiner has regressed to what we all thought he was prior to training camp; a rookie defenseman who needs time to learn how to play at the highest level. So that begs the question, is playing 12:49 a game on the bottom pairing (and most likely watching from the press box next Saturday for what I believe will be Cody Franson's first game as a Leaf) the best course of action regarding Gardiner's development? I say no. At just 21 years old and in the first year of a three year entry level deal, there is plenty of time for Gardiner to find his game in the AHL before he's ready in the big league.
The way I see it playing out is Franson will start on Saturday night, and if he gives a good showing, Gardiner gets sent down the next day with Burke recalling Matt Lashoff. Why Lashoff? Because Burke made the right move in starting Keith Aulie on the Marlies and should leave him there getting 20+ a night, not sitting in the ACC pressbox. Now granted there's the chance Lashoff gets claimed on re-entry waivers (possibly by an injury stricken Montreal team?), and that risk might seem too high for Burke, but I feel getting Gardiner's development on the right path to be worth that risk. Your thoughts?
Links after the jump.
Gap in schedule awards Wilson with team building opportunity.
Danny Gray breaks Saturday's game down.
Mike at VLM wants to hear your thoughts.
Ron didn't help himself enough on Saturday apparently.
For the artistically gifted among you, PuckDrawn is holding a contest for the Winter Classic.