The Toronto Maple leafs have decided to continue their tradition of starting seasons out strong and then abruptly plummeting down the conference standings. The shortened season works in favour of this pattern but even that will not be enough to save the team if they continue on their slump. Toronto defencemen have been a hot topic for years now and it’s easy to see why. In games 20-29 of this season the Toronto goals against has jumped to 36, an average of 3.6 per game. There is only so much criticism that can go towards the goalies. Both Scrivens and Reimer are nearly identical in their statistics and have been playing extremely well for young goaltenders.
With the defence slipping, the Leafs have decided to swap out 25 year old Korbinian Holzer for 22 year old Jake Gardiner. Holtzer has struggled recently with the Leafs. Overall, he is minus-12 in 22 games (the worst on the team) with 2 goals and 1 assist. After the decision was made, coach Randy Carlyle gave a few words to the media, “Any young player, I am sure there are some peaks and valleys. What we’re trying to do is a be a calming influence. We know there are some things he can improve on and we are going to continue to work with the individual.”
Gardiner, long praised as a puck-moving defencemen, has been solidifying his game with the Marlies. During the 2012-2013 season he has shown a strong offensive flair netting 10 goals and adding 21 assists during 43 games. Leafs GM Dave Norris had words of reminder for the Fan 590 radio station, “He’s not the saviour, he’s not going to come in and solve any and all problems. He’s still a young guy, he’s still a guy with well under 100 games in the NHL.”
Despite this, there will be a lot of fans expecting big things from the up-and-comer. Hopefully Gardiner can stick to his game, stay strong on the puck, and not let the pressures of Toronto hockey get the best of him.