Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jake Gardiner's Chances At A Calder Nomination

The last Maple Leaf to win a major NHL award was Doug Gilmour's Selke win in 1992-93 (shout out to @Bambooshirt and @gottabe_KD).  That makes it nearly a two-decade drought for one of the league's proudest franchises.

This year, Phil Kessel has put his name into the hat in the Hart trophy race and I'm sure that should the Leafs make the playoffs, he'll garner some attention.  Joffrey Lupul will have as good a chance as anyone at the Masterton but any trophy that Jason Blake can win is not a trophy that I'm willing to consider a 'major' one. 

The Leafs' best hope this season may actually be Jake Gardiner in the Calder race.

Looking at the Calder favourites up to this point in the season, Gardiner will probably have a little work to do. 

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 35 points so far this season but missed some time with a shoulder injury.  He left last night's game with another shoulder injury and with this season looking like the Oilers will be continuing their cherished tradition of June lottery picks, RNH may be encouraged to take it easy in order to avoid longterm shoulder problems -- the Oilers have been through this once with Hemsky after all.

Adam Henrique has had an impressive start to the season with 34 points and is a very respectable +7.  Henrique's top two linemates according to icetime are Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk so he's certainly been put in a position to succeed by the NJ coaching staff.  Having said that, he had to produce to maintain that spot and he's been able to do so. 

Matt Read, Cody Hodgson, and Gabriel Landeskog have 32, 30, and 27 respectively and all have a positive +/- .  These five players look to be Gardiner's strongest competition heading into the final third of the season.

Gardiner leads NHL defensemen in scoring with 2 goals and 15 assists and is +10 so far this season.  He's played a prominent role on the Leafs' defense and is 5th on the entire team in total icetime this season.  That's a lot of responsibility for a first year defenseman.

Much like Henrique, Gardiner has been placed in a position to succeed by the team's coaching staff.  Heading into tonight's game, Gardiner was 14th in terms of quality of competition and has a 55.5% offensive zone start, which is the highest on the team.

Ultimately, it's rare for defensemen to get serious consideration for the Calder trophy and Gardiner's statistics aren't so far clear of Adam Larsson (16 points) or Justin Faulk (11 points) that he'd be likely to get much attention were the award voted on today. 

With 29 games remaining in the regular season, Jake Gardiner still has time to make up some ground on the forward group who are currently ahead of him.  He has all the tools to make a serious push to close out the season and we shouldn't be surprised in the least to see his name make an appearance on some ballots at year's end.

Stick tap to 'not norm ullman' over at PPP for the topic

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