Continuing on with our full review of the Leafs 2015-2016 roster, the next two exit interviews on our list will be P-A Parenteau and Jake Gardiner. As mentioned in the opening piece of this series yesterday, we’ll judge these players’ performances in the season that was, and try to make a decision on their future with the club. Then, overall, we’ll see how they fare in the patented Dubas Ranking System.
Picked up as a low-risk option on a “show me” deal, Parenteau was part of a group of players the Leafs brought in to provide a stopgap for younger players still a year or two out, and potentially be trade deadline bait as a rental.
There really isn’t anything negative we can say about Parenteau’s performance this past season, as he notched 20 goals, 41 points, and genuinely seemed to love playing in blue and white. All of this for a cap hit of $1.5-million.
If there’s one unfortunate part of P-A’s year, I guess it’s that Lou couldn’t find a playoff contender for him at the deadline. This was especially strange considering that, of all the short-term options the Leafs had that fit the rental bill, he seemed like he’d be the most sought-after as someone who could chip in substantial offense.
Still, the fact he stuck around past the deadline wasn’t really within Parenteau’s control so we can’t knock him for that. And as far as whether he’s in the plans for next year, it’s tough to say. The twenty goal season almost ensures he’ll be able to seek a raise, but as mentioned, he was proud to throw on the sweater and his relationship with Babcock seemed great right from the get-go. Maybe he stays if the Leafs can find the roster spot for him among a rush of kids next season, and if the dollar figure is right. But don’t hold your breath.
I’ll go ahead and give Parenteau four and a half Kyle Dubas heads out of five. For the money, he really couldn’t have turned out any better, and the fact he was still being paid by the Habs made his time in Toronto even more fun. The only snag was that he surprisingly wasn’t dealt for a pick at the deadline.
If you look back on the trade that sent Phaneuf to the division rival Senators, there are probably two key factors that led to Toronto being able to unload such a supposedly unmovable contract: Lamoriello’s negotiation skills, and Jake Gardiner’s ability to make a $7-million boat anchor look like someone who could ‘steady’ another team’s blue-line long term. With Gardiner, Dion operated as a 53% possession player in terms of score-adjusted Corsi, and was just 47% away from him (via Corsica.Hockey). That’s a huge swing.
Essentially anyone who played with Gardiner this season performed better because of it (aside from Corrado for some reason), and that’s sort of been his thing even since the disastrous Carlyle years. His strength as a play-driver is arguably tops on the entire team, and as this defence group (and the team as a whole) hopefully gets bolstered in the near future, who knows what we’ll see in terms of his ceiling when it comes to both possession numbers and his boxcars.
After yesterday’s long-term signings of Rielly and Kadri, you can see the Leafs begin to establish their new core, and Gardiner is as much a part of it as those two. Even though members of the media try to trade him almost weekly, it’s hard to believe this management group, who clearly sees his value in the underlying numbers, would move on from him unless blown away by a trade offer. With a cap friendly contract and much of his prime still ahead of him, there’s no reason to think he’s anything but a key piece of the franchise.
Like Parenteau, I’m not sure there’s much to criticize about Gardiner’s game over the last season. He’s incredibly valuable in terms of his ability to push the puck in the right direction and prop up those around him. I suppose if there’s one drawback it’s that I think he still has another gear to hit in terms of his offensive output, but as the team gets better in the next 24 months, that probably won’t be a concern for much longer. Four and a half Kyles out of five.