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About Last Season: Jake Gardiner Performance Review and Grade

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You can essentially pick whatever narrative you want with Gardiner, and the numbers will back you up. We try our best to review the season of the Canes’ most confounding player.

Carolina Hurricanes v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Jake Gardiner: 2019-20 By The Numbers

  • Age: 29 (turned 30 on July 4)
  • NHL Seasons: 9
  • Games Played: 68
  • Scoring: 4 goals, 20 assists, 24 points
  • Average Ice Time: 14:50 ES, 1:47 PP, 0:03 SH
  • 5-on-5 (score/venue adjusted): 55.1 CF% (+1.06 relative), 40.1 GF%, 52.2 xGF%
  • Contract Status: Signed through 2024 at $4.05 million AAV

How do you even begin to evaluate Jake Gardiner’s season?

Is he the player who had the third-highest Corsi among Hurricanes defensemen - and led the category in the non-Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton division - or is he the player who was dead last on the roster, 19th out of 19 players who played at least 200 minutes, with just a 40.1% goals for?

Is he the player who contributed to a dangerous 5-on-5 offense when he was on the ice, or is he the offensive black hole that bore the burden of the Canes’ power play expected goals increasing by more than 40% when he wasn’t on the ice?

Is Gardiner the unluckiest player on the roster, according to Charting Hockey and backed up by a team-worst 96.1 PDO, or did he earn his spot in the “Bad” quadrant of Charting Hockey’s production chart by sporting a team-worst 0.689 points per 60, not to mention his eye-popping minus-24, worst on the team by a country mile?

The short answer: yes.

Let’s start with that abysmal plus-minus number, because it’s the first thing anyone sees on the stat sheet. There’s bad, and then there’s that. No one else on the Hurricanes roster was worse than a minus-7. Gardiner was a minus-24. Never mind the Hurricanes for a second; Gardiner’s minus-24 is the worst mark by any defenseman in the entire NHL who did not play for the Detroit Red Wings. The only players, non-Red Wings division, who were worse were the top two picks in last year’s draft (Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko) and, for some reason, San Jose’s Kevin Labanc. That’s it. That’s the list.

But then...

The Hurricanes shot just 6.07% with Gardiner on the ice at 5-on-5. That’s unsustainably low - or, at least, it would be if they hadn’t somehow managed to sustain such a low number all season. His on-ice save percentage was .900, lowest among Canes defensemen; only Justin Williams and Sebastian Aho were below that. Those numbers can’t all be attributed solely to Gardiner.

Just how snakebitten was Gardiner? He had 7.82 goals per 60 minutes when facing an empty opposition net. By comparison, Hamilton clocked in at 42.38.

And it certainly wasn’t like Gardiner was a totally lost cause. A Corsi of 55%, even on a roster of possession darlings, is nothing to sneeze at. A 52% expected goals number is entirely fine. Basically, if he had had any luck whatsoever at putting the puck in the net, his season would have looked a whole lot better. Prior to the shutdown, he had five points in two games, perhaps a sign that the tide was starting to turn.

And when he did score, he made it count, beginning in the second game of the season when he used Aho as a decoy and put an unstoppable shot past Braden Holtby:

Remember, it took until September - nearly on the eve of training camp - for Gardiner, presumed to be the top free-agent defenseman on the market, to sign a contract. The deal he signed pays him like a second-pairing defenseman, which he certainly showed signs of being. He’s at worst a lateral swap, and at best a modest upgrade, on Calvin de Haan, whose spot he essentially filled on the roster.

I’m not sure anything can be said in a review of Gardiner’s season that will change anyone’s mind. His lows were plenty low, there’s no doubt, but there are also plenty of signs that those lows were aberrations. It’s anyone’s guess what Gardiner will look like in the playoffs, but there’s no way this year’s confusing numbers will repeat themselves next season.

...right?

Poll

How would you grade Jake Gardiner’s 2019-2020 season?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    A - outstanding performance
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    B - above average performance
    (6 votes)
  • 40%
    C - average performance
    (85 votes)
  • 39%
    D - below average performance
    (84 votes)
  • 14%
    F - significantly below average performance
    (31 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now