April 25, 2013 7:46 am

kesselThe Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning (14th ranked team in the Eastern Conference) last night 5-2. It was a humiliating effort (one that has become all too common over the past ten days). While the lack of blue and white intensity on the night was frustrating, it was outdone by TSN’s Ray Ferraro love fest for Martin St.Louis. St.Louis finished with three goals and now leads the NHL in scoring. St.Louis certainly deserves credit for his play last night and throughout his career. Yet, he is the same player that earlier this year was shown watching the TSN monitor in between the benches (during play) in order to see a replay of one of his moves. That was the second last game that then coach Guy Boucher was behind the bench for as he was let go for apparently “losing the room”. Many criticized Boucher yet not one word was spoken about St.Louis’ lack of focus. I was stuck wondering last night – during Ferraro’s epic ranting about St.Louis’ leadership abilities – if the same accolades would have been thrown Kessel’s way if he were in a similar position? The Lightning are massive underachievers this season as they will be missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. This is a Lightning organization that has the 10th highest payroll in the NHL and their “leader” is watching the TSN monitor during play. Would TSN praise Kessel the same way if the Leafs were in 14th place in the East, or would they be calling him a poor leader and not a franchise player, who is capable of scoring only when the games don’t matter (something they’ve repeatedly done)?

Nevertheless, the Leafs struggled on their way to another loss. It’s time to put that in the past and focus on having a strong effort tonight against the Florida Panthers (the 15th ranked team in the Eastern Conference). As coach Randy Carlyle has said he plans on playing a very balanced lineup throughout the final three games, it will be interesting to see if Jake Gardiner finds his way back into the lineup tonight. Having been a healthy scratch the past two games, Gardiner is once again stuck in limbo. My opinions are well known on the subject, I think Gardiner should be playing every night even if he is struggling (which he is not). His development takes priority above all else and the Leafs are a better team when his unique and high end skilled set is in the lineup. Since Gardiner was recalled on March 20th here is a list of Leaf defenseman and their games played over that same period:

Dion Phaneuf – 17
Mark Fraser – 17
Cody Franson – 17
Carl Gunnarsson – 14
JM Liles – 13
Jake Gardiner – 10
Ryan O’Byrne – 8 (out of the ten games the Leafs have played since acquiring him)
Mike Kostka – 6

Has Gardiner been given a fair shot by Randy Carlyle? I don’t know, my answer is certainly biased. However, having a defenseman capable of making plays like this would have been a welcome sight last night:

This article was written by on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 7:46 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • Alex

    I agree 100%, I’m sick of him being in the press box, I honestly don’t know what he did the last few games that have made him sit out? Its a mind boggling issue

    • hope_smoke

      Thanks for the comment. It’s really frustrating me too.

  • @BombKengartner

    I’m as glad as any Leaf fan that we’re back in the playoffs, but this year really would’ve served the development of the team better if we weren’t, unfortunately. Carlyle certainly isn’t going to put getting experience for the younger players over competing for a spot, so I guess the slow progress of players like Gardiner are the price we pay. It’d be nice if he realized Gardiner is actually BETTER than some of the stiffs that are dressing (ROB), that’s our Randy…

    • hope_smoke

      Well said. Thanks for the comment

  • Pingback: Four for Friday | Toronto Maple Leafs