I don't understand the end of this conversation with David Nonis, in which the idea of shifting Jake Gardiner to forward is discussed, and not rejected immediately by the Leafs' GM. It comes as a complete surprise to me.
I thought Jake Gardiner was a jewel, an untouchable building block for Toronto's future. I thought he was a young, talented, offensively-oriented defenceman with decent size. Sure, I know there's been talk of defensive lapses, as most if not all young d-men commit, and that it grated on Randy Carlyle and strained the relationship somewhat, but I thought that was just growing pains, that another season or two and the kid would be money in the bank.
So why would this even idea even be mentioned by the media, and not quashed immediately by Dave Nonis? Is it because of the glut they have on the left side? Is that a solution to the right-handed defenceman penury, that we'll take a leftie and push him up to forward?
Is it because of the Brent Burns experiment in San José? Because of Dustin Byfuglien? Both of these guys had some success at forward, but both prefer playing defence, and were returned to their blueline position. Big Buff was back at forward at the end of this season, but that was just Paul Maurice cracking the whip on the under-conditioned, unfocused but talented Jet.
Unless a defenceman can't skate backwards, I don't understand why you'd want to shift him back to forward, and lose a precious asset. Are the Leafs, or more centrally, their fans, about to give up on a soon-to-be 24 year old defenceman? Did I fall prey to Toronto hype in his case, to Mark Masters-puffery?
What a cautionary tale for Canadiens fans who are impatient with the progression of Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, and the time they're spending in Hamilton. Marc Bergevin says they've progressed this year, that "they're close", but we want to consider it a done deal that both will be with le Grand Club in October. We've waited long enough. We wants ours first-rounders, dagnabbit. A balm for our Louis Leblanc bruising.
"Throw them out there," we say, "they'll learn from their mistakes." Because we've heard that before, so it must be true. It sounds true. You learn from your mistakes. You're not scarred by them, or start to put pressure on yourself, or start to listen to the boos and catcalls, or second-guess yourself, or start to overthink or rush plays. No no. You learn.