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About Last Season: Jake Gardiner Performance Review and Grade

The veteran blueliner saw a hot start overshadowed by prolonged injury issues.

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Jake Gardiner 2020-21 Season by the Numbers

  • Age: 30
  • NHL Seasons: 10
  • Scoring: 0 goals, 8 assists, 8 points in 26 games
  • Advanced Numbers: 53.85 CF%, 53.47 SCF%, 53.87 xGF%, 56.0 GF%
  • Average TOI: 14:11 ES, 1:49 PP, 0:03 SH
  • Contract Status: 2 more years with $4.05 million AAV and M-NTC (7 team no trade list)

It was a difficult season to judge for Jake Gardiner.

On one hand, the veteran blueliner saw a solid stretch of elevated play through the first quarter of the season, giving hope for a resurgence and his best season yet with the Carolina Hurricanes.

But on the other, it was, in a sense, another disappointing season for Gardiner as he only managed to play another 11 games through the remainder of the regular season games along with one playoff appearance.

So while his overall on-ice performance was better than last season, injury issues derailed what could have been a really stellar season.

JFresh Hockey

Let’s take a look at the first 15 games Gardiner played this season before he started to miss considerable time.

In those games, Gardiner had a 55.15 Corsi For % — 3rd best among the Carolina’s regular defensemen — led the defense in Goals For % (69.23%) and High Danger Chances For % (60.0%) and was second best among the defense in expected Goals For % (55.78%) and Scoring Chances For % (55.03%).

He also registered seven of his eight total points in that stretch, including three power-play apples.

It was apparent that he was much more confident in Carolina’s system and just overall as a player and if you’re more of a fan of the eye-test, here are a few of the plays he was making during that stretch.

It looked like this season was going to prove why the Canes wanted to sign Gardiner, but it seemed luck was just not on his side.

Gardiner only played 11 more games after playing the first 15 of the season, with those taking place sporadically from February - April, and it was clear that something was off.

During that span, Gardiner put up much weaker numbers with a 51.94 CF%, 41.67 GF%, 51.44 xGF%, 45.45 HDCF%, and 51.49 SCF%. Across the board, all of Gardiner’s numbers were worse and he just seemed to be a step behind plays and constantly battling himself.

He would come and go into the lineup between late February and April— even ending up on waivers in March, a cap saving move where he was assigned to the taxi squad — without any clear update on whether his absence was performance or health related.

The Hurricanes had kept pretty much everyone in the dark in regards to Gardiner’s health throughout the season and when he first started to miss time in mid-February, it wasn’t clear that he was dealing with an injury until a roster report a few games later listed him as out with an upper-body injury.

He didn’t play any regular season games in May, but ended up suiting up for Game 2 of the first round series against the Nashville Predators while Jaccob Slavin was out, though he logged just 9:07 of ice time. He wouldn’t appear again in the postseason.

The only confirmation that we received on Gardiner’s overall health came after the season was already over when Don Waddell held an end of year press conference on June 17.

In response to where Gardiner had been he responded that, “[Gardiner] had some MRIs done here recently. It’s in discussion right now with him and the doctors as far as the next move, so I don’t really have an update. I know he just did an MRI the other day.”

It’s important to note that Gardiner had a major back injury in 2019 when he was playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so it seems that injury issues have been following him since then.

Gardiner came out of the gate hot, putting up great numbers and looking like a difference maker on the blueline, that spark quickly died out.

It was painfully apparent that there was a different player out there for the majority of the season and that was more than likely because he was playing through an injury that was hampering his ability to be play at a high level.

Which also makes the fact that he stepped in for a teammate in a late April game against the Tampa Bay Lightning — going after Alex Killorn after he laid a big hit against Martin Necas — much more respectable.

Gardiner fought through a lot of adversity this season and it’s a shame that we only managed to see a small sample of the player he can be.


How would you grade Jake Gardiner’s 2020-21 season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A - Outstanding Performance
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    B - Above Average Performance
    (14 votes)
  • 36%
    C - Average Performance
    (108 votes)
  • 43%
    D - Below Average Performance
    (128 votes)
  • 13%
    F - Significantly Below Average Performance
    (40 votes)
293 votes total Vote Now