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Jake Gardiner


With the boats now foolishly burnt and the season 31 games old, the Toronto Maple Leafs sure look like they’re reeling into form.  Since starting the season with a record of 15 – 9 – 0, the Leafs have gone 1 – 3 – 3 in the past seven games, collecting only five points in the standings and now sitting precariously in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Through the good graces of the Hockey gods and the incompetence of their direct competition (the Jets, Hurricanes and Rangers all lost in regulation last night), the Leafs are just barely keeping their head above water.


The Tampa Bay Lighting (13-15-1) are in town to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-2).

The other day, Randy Carlyle called the Leafs’ inability to initiate clean breakouts and avoid getting hemmed in their own zone “the big mystery with this group.” He’s taken steps toward resolving it with the addition of both John Michael-Liles and Jake Gardiner to the lineup, who will apparently play together on a pairing tonight as the defence takes a shape much closer to what many armchair coaches were penciling together before the season. It will be interesting to see how the pair affect the breakout and overall puck movement off the backend. Gardiner will also look to inject some life into a powerplay that’s 0 for its last 19.

Speaking of interesting quotes from the other day, Dave Nonis was asked if the Leafs were in the midst of a downfall akin to last season, with his team currently on a 0-3-2 skid. Nonis said, “The one difference I would draw – I just went over the last 5 games – I think there was only one game where we weren’t happy with the performance and the effort. Last year, when things were going poorly, were were unhappy with the effort a lot more than that.” So let’s hope that translates into an upturn in results before the Leafs play their way out of the playoff picture.

The Leafs were hurt by an off outing from Ben Scrivens in their last meeting with the Lightning. Facing their first non-playoff opponent in five games, this is also a good time to get their first win in five games. James Reimer gets the start.

Liles and Gardiner form the second pairing, with Kostka remaining in the press box for the third straight game. Phaneuf and Gunnarsson will be tasked with the Stamkos and St. Louis head-to-head. Vinny Lecavalier is out with a broken foot.

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James Mirtle wrote the other day about how the first Pascal Dupuis goal in the crushing 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday was the back breaker when it came to Korbinian Holzer’s time with the Leafs this season. Holzer challenged Chris Kunitz on the boards and Kunitz came out cleanly with the puck to start the play that led to the goal. I remember thinking at the time, “Holzer struggles with his outlet pass, he struggles positionally, what are we doing here if Holzer can’t even win a battle on the boards?”

Unfortunately for Holzer that was just one of many recent goals against he’s had a hand in. That said, despite the demotion, I’m not going to write off Holzer as a Leaf asset. I think he could be what Mark Fraser is now if he learns from this experience, gets some confidence back in the AHL (presumably will still be down there for their playoff run), and gets his next crack in a more manageable situation.


Before we get to this morning’s thoughts and links, I just wanted to thank everyone for the feedback and well wishes. I’ve been a reader of MLHS since late 2009 and it truly is an honor to write for this awesome blog community.

First things first, here’s the tweet we’ve all seen by now from Ben Hankinson, Jake Gardiner’s agent from Octagon Sports Management, who sent this out as the Leafs were losing to the Winnipeg Jets:


Since we are almost at the halfway point, I thought now would be a good time to write some notes on each individual player thus far. Here is the close-but-not-quite-halfway Leafs Notebook:


A little late on the news; we wanted to make sure you guys checked out the inaugural MLHS podcast.

Jake Gardiner has been sent down to the Toronto Marlies to rediscover his timing and confidence in the AHL. His poor decision making with the puck and numerous bobbles have been uncharacteristic to say the least, and James Mirtle makes the point that he’s just the latest in a line of Leafs who have shown even more rust than we expected coming off a concussion. A young player being sent down to get up to speed after a significant injury layoff is obviously nothing to worry about, at least not yet.

Toronto Marlies

The Toronto Marlies defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 6-5 in what was a wild, high-scoring affair.

Toronto Marlies vs Oklahoma City Baron’s Highlights

Nicolas Deschamps Goal

Kenny Ryan Goal

Greg Scott Goal

Jake Gardiner OT Winner

Mike Zigomanis Goal

Korbinian Holzer’s Huge Hit

Jake Gardiner Interview

For a more detailed account, here is a live blog transcript from the Edmonton Journal.

First Period

9:37 – That didn’t take long. 1-0 Marlies on a soft goal on Roy. The Barons’ defenceman (didn’t see who it was for sure) couldn’t get over to cut off the Marlies’ Will Acton, and he fired a hard shot from the far side of the left wing that squeezed between Roy’s arm and body.

9:39 – No replay on the goal, so I’ll try to go back and look at it at the intermission.

9:45 - Magnus Paajarvi drew a penalty with some good work in the corner, and this first power play shift has been a shooting gallery; no goals yet but Hall and Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins keep getting shots from good areas.

9:47 – No goal on the power play. Nelson went right to the fourth line for the shift after the man advantage ended – with veteran Dane Byers alongside defensive forwards Chris VandeVelde and Tanner House, this seems to be his preferred line for defensive matchups when an opportunity (own zone draws late in the third, after power plays, etc.) arises. They’ve had a strong game so far and do a nice job covering the Kadri line.

9:50 – Hybrid icing call on a long Teubert dump. I really like this rule – it makes the game go by quicker (it eliminates all those long skates back to the red line) and removes those ugly plays where everybody knows one guy will get there first so the other guy just goes for a hard hit on a player in a vulnerable spot. A faster game, less injury risk, and they don’t blow the whistle when the other team can negate the icing. This is an excellent rule change.

9:52 – Marincin takes a nice shot at point blank range off a nice setup by Chris VandeVelde.

9:54 – Magnus Paajarvi generates all sorts of trouble on a 2-on-2 rush, going wide around the Marlies defender and then cutting in; he’s an ice fit with Hartikainen because even though Paajarvi’s initial shot was weak Hartikainen’s presence in the crease made it exponentially more dangerous. Hartikainen with a nice chance off the rebound too, which Rynnas was equal too.

9:54 – Nugent-Hopkins rings a shot off the post.

9:56 – Mark Arcobello bails out Alex Plante. Plante had two strides on the forechecking Marlies forward racing for a loose puck, but got beat; Arcobello came in and turned the 1-on-1 battle into a 2-on-1, which got the puck moving the other way.

9:59 – Entering the offensive zone, Chris VandeVelde flipped the puck high and over to Tanner House. Even though it was a difficult pass to intercept, Nazem Kadri (impressively) batted it out of the air and went the other way. Without missing a beat, VandeVelde wheeled and caught up with him by center ice, pinning him against the boards and preventing a rush the other way. A small play, to be sure, but impressive hand/eye coordination by Kadri and a very nice recovery for VandeVelde.

10:02 – The Marlies’ Aucoin snuck behind the Schultz/Marincin pairing and received a breakout pass, but Schultz wheeled back and cut him off before anything could happen. A good play for Schultz, who I think was the defenceman who misplayed Aucoin on the first goal.

10:03 – Teubert’s stick breaks, and chaos ensues around the crease. It’s now 2-0 Marlies on the play. As with the first goal, I believe I caught what happened but I’ll wait until the end of the period to confirm.

10:04 – A hard shot from the slot off a weird bounce beats Roy cleanly. That will do it for Roy, who had a clear look at the shot and really should have had it. 3-0 Marlies.

10:05 – This is turning into a rout. There was a long shot from the point that Danis kicked out, but the defence failed to adequately cover the crease and a Marlies forward scored from point blank range. 4-0 Marlies.

10:07 – Jake Gardiner rushes in on left wing and Colten Teubert can’t keep up, so he goes for the bear hug. The Marlies head to the power play.

10:08 – That’s it for the first. Now I’ll try and get replays and more detailed descriptions of the scoring plays.

10:09 – Eberle calls the first period “embarrassing,” and says the Barons are “getting beat all over the ice.”

10:15 – Reviewing the 1-0 goal. All three Barons forwards (Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall) were trapped deep as the play started back toward the Barons zone; this left Justin Schultz and Martin Marincin facing a 3-on-2 rush. Nugent-Hopkins got back to the zone in time to do something but floated ineffectually rather than picking a check. Schultz cheated to the middle to handle the puck carrier and gave Will Acton lots of room on his side of the ice, and then couldn’t get back in time to prevent a good shot. Roy should have had it – it was a shot from a good area, but it wasn’t especially hard or fast and he had a clear look, but there was lots of blame to go around on the play.

10:20 – Reviewing the 2-0 goal. This was just an ugly, ugly sequence as the Barons’ NHL line was thoroughly outworked for the entire shift leading up to the goal. On the goal itself, Colten Teubert got caught running around a bit, but then took Paul Ranger behind the net, which should have been fine because three Barons – Taylor Fedun, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – were clustered in the crease area versus just two Marlies. Fedun took his man away at the side of the net, but Nugent-Hopkins and Hall watched from the crease area as a totally ignored Nicolas Deschamps took the Ranger pass and scored from right in front of Roy. No chance for the goaltender here; this one is on the forwards (and to a lesser extent Teubert).

10:24 – Reviewing the 3-0 goal. This one is on Curtis Hamilton. Alex Plante lumbered around ineffectively – Mark Arcobello beat him to a loose puck at the back of the net and played it up to Hamilton, who had time to do something with the puck. Instead, Hamilton allowed the puck to be taken off his stick by Kenny Ryan, Plante closed the gap with Ryan too slowly to be able to do anything, and Ryan beat Roy cleanly. Roy had a good look at the shot, but it’s hard to put a lot of blame on him for that one.

10:30 – Reviewing the 4-0 goal. This essentially comes about after Justin Schultz is left in a 2-on-1 situation in front of the crease. Martin Marincin and Chris VandeVelde were both patrolling the area right in front of Yann Danis moments earlier, where they bumped into each other accidentally. Both responded to the bump by moving away from the net and into the slot. Schultz took Joe Colborne right in front of the net (Schultz has shifted to the left side of the net here, though he’s the right side defenceman, because he’s the only guy back for the Barons), but that left Greg Scott alone almost n the blue paint; when the point shot crept through there was nothing anybody could do to stop him. Schultz was tied up with Colborne; both Marincin and VandeVelde had been pulled forward when the puck went to the point. Danis is pretty much blameless on the play, Schultz deserves some fire for committing to Colborne with nobody else around, but Marincin gets most of the blame for leaving his position to wander around aimlessly. The bump with VandeVelde seemed to throw him and VandeVelde is far from perfect here, but Marincin getting sucked into no-man’s land is the biggest problem.

Second Period

10:33 – Nugent-Hopkins stopped on a backhand shot; I still don’t know how that didn’t go in. It was a bit of a sloppy shift for the Oilers line but they created a glorious opportunity off a broken play there.

10:35 – Yann Danis stops Joe Colborne at point blank range; Colborne snuck in behind Plante and Danis was forced to make a great save.

10:36 – Justin Schultz with a nice pokecheck on a Kenny Ryan rush; Ryan fell flat on his backside and the puck went out of danger.

10:38 – Teemu Hartikainen draws a tripping penalty with a partial break where he bulled toward the middle of the ice.

10:40 – A great shot by Schultz leads to a rebound; Jordan Eberle skates in tight with the puck but Rynnas manages to stop him. Once again, the Oklahoma power play looks great but they aren’t quite able to score.

10:46 – 3-on-2 rush for Toronto. Marincin made a great play to knock the puck away, but the trailer picked it up and got a good shot anyway. Marincin didn’t like the way the Marlies rushed the net after Danis made the save, and took a penalty for going after one Marlies forward (didn’t catch the number).

10:48 – The Barons are out shooting Toronto 18-13 heading into this penalty kill.

10:52 – Magnus Paajarvi just playing keep away in a now 4-on-4 situation. Goes for a skate here, a skate there, doesn’t allow the Marlies the puck but doesn’t do much with the possession either.

10:56 – A little bit of revenge for the Barons’ NHL line. A gorgeous passing play on the power play makes it 4-1 Marlies.

10:56 – Hall finished the play off; primary assists go to Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. The nicest goal of the morning.

11:02 – That was a much better second period, although there were some ugly moments. The game is now 4-1 Marlies. Things seem heated between the teams – I’m not sure if it’s a product of the score (guys like Hall are involved in hostilities) or last year’s playoffs.

11:06 – Reviewing the 4-1 goal. Just nice puck movement all the way around; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made the final pass to a streaking Hall in front of the net and Hall just touched the puck home for a goal. Whatever else can be said about the NHL kids in this game, they’ve been superb on the power play.

Third Period

11:23 – Some faceoff statistics, courtesy of the Barons play-by-play crew: Chris VandeVelde has gone 6-for-9, Nugent-Hopkins 4-for-9, Arcobello 9-for-14 and Lander 7-for-11.

11:24 – Tyler Pitlick with a nice rush down the left wing; it was a solid play and he blew by Paul Ranger but he couldn’t quite cut into the middle for a scoring chance. He did manage to draw a penalty, though.

11:26 – A weird start to the power play; the Barons couldn’t gain the zone and seemed out of sync in their own end. Ultimately the puck wobbled into the offensive zone and goaltender Jussi Rynnas came way, way, way out of his net to freeze it.

11:28 – Mark Arcobello with a goal to make it 4-2 with just a second left on the power play. Tyler Pitlick made a nice pass to Martin Marincin on the side boards; Marincin took a hard shot and Arcobello was in place to put the rebound home.

11:29 – Marincin took three shots in maybe thirty seconds to close out the power play there, all of them good shots to take. It will be interesting to see what he can do running the first unit once Schultz is promoted to the NHL.

11:31 – Odd play. Nugent-Hopkins loses the draw (just outside the blue line) cleanly to Acton, who wins it back to the defenceman Mike Kostka, who promptly ices it.

11:32 – The Barons are going on the penalty kill. Taylor Hall got his stick in Joe Colborne’s skates as the latter attempted to exit his own end with the puck, resulting in a tripping minor.

11:34 – 5-2 Marlies. A point shot on the power play was tipped in front of the net; not much else to say about that one.

11:37 – Lander with a quick stick to break up a hard pass. Lander’s line is the only one that hasn’t been scored against today.

11:40 – Hall is frustrated. He tried to split the Paul Ranger/Dylan Yeo pairing and couldn’t quite do it; he ended up on his back. As he got back up he punched at Ranger. No penalty on the play, but the frustration was obvious.

11:42 – Another scrum in front of the net, as the line of Paajarvi, Lander and Hartikainen mix it up yet again. They’ve easily been that Barons’ best even-strength line on the game.

11:43 – Great pass from Nugent-Hopkins to Eberle; Eberle fired the puck quickly and it went off first goaltender Jussi Rynnas and then the crossbar before heading over the glass.

11:48 – The Barons were headed to the power play, and with the goalie pulled for the extra man defenceman Jordan Henry tried to carry the puck into the Marlies zone. As he pulled up to the blue line, Marlies rearguard Korbinian Holzer hammered Henry with a hip check; Henry went down and stayed down for a minute. Predictably a scrum ensued, as Dane Byers went after Holzer immediately. Henry looks okay; it was a big, tough, clean check by Holzer.

11:50 – Barons power play results. It looks like Mike Zigomanis took the initial minor, and that Byers and Mark Fraser will both be penalized. Interestingly Byers is sitting in the box, but it seems that Fraser has been ejected from the game.

11:51 – Byers and Fraser both got roughing minors and 10 minute misconducts.

11:52 – Carter Ashton, killing the penalty, takes a hooking minor. Lengthy 5-on-3 coming up.

11:53 – Eberle robbed at the side of the net by Jussi Rynnas; the 5-on-3 is nearly over.

11:54 – Rynnas tried to head to create a break by asking for water prior to the Marlies’ defensive zone draw; a little transparent perhaps but the sort of thing that needs to be tried.

11:54 – Another 5-on-3. The Marlies take a bench minor; it isn’t clear why but the commentators are guessing that Dallas Eakins is getting it for yapping at the referees. Apparently Eakins has been tossed from the game.

11:55 – It looked like Nugent-Hopkins had just scored; it will probably be reviewed but the referee waved it off immediately.

11:57 – 3:16 left in the game, and the Barons have a two-man advantage for almost a full minute yet. The Nugent-Hopkins shot is till under review; the AHL live feed has yet to supply a replay. The Nugent-Hopkins shot is ruled a goal, making it 5-3 and giving the Barons a 5-on-4 power play.

11:58 – The Nugent-Hopkins goal was a nice shot from the side of the net with the 5-on-3 advantage; it must have just squeaked across the line.

12:00 – The Barons pull their goalie and score on the 6-on-4 advantage. They shave enough time to tie this game. Eberle tallied his seventh of the year with a hard low shot through a crowd.

12:02 – 5-5! With the goalie pulled the Barons score again, with Nugent-Hopkins slapping the puck over the line on a broken play.

12:06 – A deflected shot goes high and catches Paul Ranger, who is lying on the ice and in some difficulty. The score is still 5-5; overtime coming up.


12:10 – Back and forth here in the extra frame, but no great chances so far.

12:12 – Shout-out to the Cult of Hockey on the Barons’ official feed. Right now they’re reveling in the fact that colour guy Doug Sauter’s prediction – that Toronto might blow this 4-0 lead – turned out to be true. Absolutely need to enjoy that kind of prediction!

12:13 – Barons on the 4-on-3 penalty kill now. VandeVelde, House and Teubert out for Oklahoma.

12:15 – Danis makes a big save after Colten Teubert failed to clear the puck; finally the penalty killers get a break.

12:16 – Lander gets a quick cameo, and then Nelson goes right back to VandeVelde and House.

12:17 – Jake Gardiner scores moments after the penalty to Alex Plante (hooking) expires; the Marlies walk away with a 6-5 win despite blowing a 5-2 lead in just over three minutes in the third period.

Justin Schultz

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Saying I have very little knowledge about Justin Schultz is quite the understatement. I have never seen him play, until this post I had never looked at a single one of his stats, and ultimately this whole situation seemed reminiscent of teams fighting for the services of Matt Gilroy a few seasons ago (Gilroy was statistically not as good.) The only thing I really knew for sure is that he was Jake Gardiner’s defensive partner at the University of Wisconsin, and based on Gardiner’s performance Wisconsin does alright in the offensive defensemen development department.

On Friday, Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Justin Schultz was officially leaving school:

Stuart Percy - July 12, 2013

Leafs fans are showing heightened interest in the Marlies lately, and deservedly so as they have officially begun their run for the Calder Cup. While AHL success in the playoffs is always a fantastic experience for any player – especially young ones – fans of Toronto hockey at the end of the day are asking themselves one thing: How does this help the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Earlier in the year, I wrote a piece looking at Calder Cup Finalists translation to NHL success. That leads into the current edition of the Marlies as we look at who on this team is being counted on to help the Leafs moving forward and which players are likely to become productive NHLers and part of the long-term solution here.

Now, I want to stress that there is a difference between a long-term NHLer, and a fringe AHL-NHL tweener. A player like Darryl Boyce is an AHL-NHL tweener, meaning he’s a very good American league player, but struggles to get into a National league lineup consistently. Usually players that struggle to translate their games are missing one key ingredient that they can get away with in the AHL, but not the NHL – Be that a lack of speed, size, vision, strength, shooting ability, defensive ability, and so on.

So, inevitably, when someone says “where is Greg Scott,” well, Greg Scott brings a lot to the table, and hey, he could potentially make the Leafs as their 12th or 13th forward, but he is not a long-term solution to anything for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, when we are looking at the players below, we aren’t just looking at players who may or may not crack the Leafs next season, we are looking at players who are being counted on to be contributing Toronto Maple Leafs for years to come in the ongoing quest to make the playoffs.


In case you haven’t heard, the Toronto Marlies beat the Rochester Americans last night 4-3 to take a 1-0 lead in their first round best of five playoff series.

The game story and video highlights can be found here on the Marlies website. The readers digest version goes like this: the Marlies took the play to Rochester in the first, yet it was Rochester who finished the first period with a 1-0 lead. The Americans’ goalie, David Leggio, was peppered with shots throughout the game and the Marlies D’Amigo finally broke through in the second period as the two teams went into the third period tied at one. The Marlies then scored two goals to take what looked like a commanding lead, only for Rochester to storm back and tie the game. D’Amigo scored once again with under five minutes to take a final 4-3 lead as the Marlies held on for the win.

I linked the game story because I don’t plan on writing them. Below I have some game notes, interesting tidbits and takeaways from conversations I was lucky to have with the players. I want to supplement the standard game stories that can be found on numerous websites rather than duplicate them. So here it goes: