For the Carolina Hurricanes, signing Jake Gardiner was a welcome surprise. It’s important to stay patient with the defender as he continues to adjust.
The Carolina Hurricanes shocked the rest of the NHL when they inked 29-year-old left defenseman, Jake Gardiner, to a 4-year, $4.050 million dollar contract. The logic was that he was available, and if he improved the team, why not?
Personally, I was partial to Gardiner as a player prior to the signing because he played three years at Wisconsin. So, I had always kept an eye on and rooted for him. His games against Buffalo and Minnesota could be described as pedestrian outings. He also has a team-worst -11 on the season. With those things in mind, it seems like a good time to remind people to “r-e-l-a-x.”
Gardiner is coming off his two lowest TOIs, 12:48 in Buffalo and 14:03 in Minnesota. He was also a -5 in those two games, for what that’s worth to you. I tend to chalk it up as luck of the draw, unless there was a glaring error that resulted in the goal against.
With the Carolina Hurricanes, Gardiner isn’t seeing the ice as frequently as he did while in Toronto. His average TOI this season is 17:18, where as in Toronto it was 21:13. We shouldn’t read into this too much, though. It’s the byproduct of the Carolina Hurricanes having a deep, multi-dimensional defensive group.
We’re one-quarter of the way into the season, and Gardiner has been exactly what I expected he would be. He has flashes of exceptional play, but he also has some moments where we collectively ask “What in tarnation?”.
His stretch passes are great, and his ability to keep the puck moving in the offensive zone is on display every game. He’s much more of a puck mover than a shooter. Areas he could improve in include getting his shots on net (37.3% thru) and, occasionally, his urgency in his decision making.
In the Buffalo game, there were numerous occasions where he provided support to Haydn Fleury, who was aggressively holding the blue line. However, there was also a situation where he had a D-to-D pass available, waited too long, and it almost turned disastrous when it was deflected.
We can look the other way on those so long as it doesn’t directly result in a goal against. Gardiner is firmly positioned in the 2nd-pair LD slot, and unless he gets injured, he won’t lose it anytime soon. What the Hurricanes need from him in his current role is for him to be positively noticeable, not a game changer.
I included Gardiner in my November monthly projections because I know he has more to give. My prediction was that he’d tally five power play points this month. So far, he’s got two. He’s got two more weeks to prove I’m a psychic. With each passing game I both hope and expect that he’ll become just a little more comfortable with his new team.
That’s the biggest point I want to drive home. Gardiner is only 20 games into his new path. He spent eight seasons in Toronto, and for much of it, he was their punching bag. His gaffes were termed “mis-Jakes.”
When a player makes a significant move, there’s going to be an adjustment period. It’s why i’m preaching patience with Gardiner. Carolina and Toronto are vastly different markets. I don’t want to see “mis-Jakes” follow him, and I don’t want him to turn into the new scapegoat. His start has been a mixed bag, but it’s still too soon to draw conclusions.
Just a passing glance over Toronto’s side of Twitter and you can see that there are a lot of fans over there that miss Gardiner’s presence on their blue line. Carolina’s got a good one, make no mistake.
More from Cardiac Cane
- 2023 Southeast Rookie Showcase: Takeaways from the Canes’ Strong Showing in Florida
- Week Two Coverage Of College Hockey In NC
- Derek Stepan Ends His On Ice Career As A Hurricane
- The Southeast Rookie Showcase Will Be a Good Look at Carolina’s Future
- Noesen Ready To Provide Depth For Canes
You know who else took an entire half season to adjust to his new team and city? The one and only Dougie Hamilton. There was a lot of concern early in his Carolina Hurricanes tenure, but he’s turned out to be a perfect fit.
Just as a reminder, Gardiner finished 6th in Calder voting in his rookie season. This was one place higher than, you guessed it, Justin Faulk. He has also broken the 40-point plateau twice, with his career best being 52. He would’ve come close last season had he stayed healthy.
Much like the Carolina Hurricanes, Gardiner himself is going to be fine. He’s got a lot to offer and he’ll continue to grow and adjust.
Question for CC Readers: In your opinion, how has Jake Gardiner played thus far?