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TORONTO – On draft day in the summer of 2012, the Maple Leafs parted with a defenceman they once viewed as an anchor of the futu

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TORONTO – On draft day in the summer of 2012, the Maple Leafs parted with a defenceman they once viewed as an anchor of the future, a top-five overall selection they traded up to land in the first round of the 2008 draft. Elite Saints Jerseys . Luke Schenn was picked 12 spots ahead of Jake Gardiner. Looming this summer for Dave Nonis and Toronto management is a decision similar to the one faced when it came to Schenn - deciding when to cut bait with a high-upside, but potentially flawed prospect. Then-Leafs general manager Brian Burke made the choice at just the right time with Schenn, who is back in town on Saturday, sending him to Philadelphia for James van Riemsdyk, the one-time second-overall selection who had yet to blossom as a Flyer. Gardiner has stalled in his third NHL season, only sparingly resembling the emphatic, change-of-pace defender he was in the playoffs last spring and before that, as a rookie, under then-head coach Ron Wilson. Like Schenn, the 23-year-old was viewed very recently as a concrete piece of the Leafs future, a status that has muddied with each game gone by, his performance wavering uncertainly in each of the past two seasons. Gardiner, whose name has been floated in trade rumours constantly, is a restricted free agent this summer and its at that point that a choice will definitively be made on his future with the Leafs. Though he still leads the team in even-strength ice-time this season, he has seen his opportunities consistently plummet; from a season-high of nearly 24 minutes nightly in December down to less than 21 in January to fewer than 19 in February and now to a season-low of about 17 in early March. Theres upside there – his elite skating ability most prominent – and the Leafs know it, but in some doubt now is whether that upside can be unlocked or whether the former Wisconsin star is too flawed in other areas to make him worth hanging onto, especially with younger defenders like Morgan Rielly, Stuart Percy and Matt Finn already in the prospect chain. Unlike Nazem Kadri, who tested the organizations patience, but eventually offered sustained stretches of development, Gardiners play has been mostly erratic since his rookie debut. There was a six-game spell in the playoffs against Boston with other hints proving infrequent. Its well established that defencemen typically take longer to mature than forwards – Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson among the notable exceptions – all of which complicates the decision-making process when it comes to Gardiner. His inconsistent play in the past two seasons may be just be part of the development curve. Once a defenceman himself, head coach Randy Carlyle joked that it took "too long" for him to finally mature into a well-rounded NHL defender, offering insight into why the process lingers at the position. "I think because you handle the puck more," said Carlyle, who won a Norris Trophy in his fifth season. "Theres more pressure on a defenceman in the game to handle the puck and make the right decision with the puck and youre constantly under pressure from the opposition trying to strip you of the puck, body-check, all of those things…" Tim Gleason, a 31-year-old and member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver, said it was only a few years ago that he found his bearings at the NHL level. His response as to why it took as long as it did mirrored Carlyle. "The more you do it the more used to it you get and it slows down a tiny bit," he told the Leaf Report. "Its different than being a forward; you have pressure on you instead of giving pressure. As a forward, youre taught to pressure the puck as quick as you can, as fast as you can. As a defenceman, your job is to protect the puck, get the puck out being under pressure. I think thats a big deal." Gardiner has struggled in that regard. His decision-making with the puck and, even without it, has been flawed. Hes made wholehearted attempts to make "smarter plays with the puck," "not making so many turnovers and or, at least, not in bad areas," but its remained an ongoing issue anyway. At Carlyles prodding, hs also tried to become a stiffer defender, stating his intent to work on things such as "having one hand on my stick, body position, finishing checks." Hes watched a lot of video, too, even pulling his performance from that memorable series against the Bruins at one point earlier this year. Its tantalizing performances like that – when he had five points in six games – that surely give Nonis and his team pause when it comes to moving on from Gardiner. Schenn was dealt only nine months after he signed a rich, five-year deal with the Leafs. It was determined that his shortcomings – foot speed specifically – would ultimately keep him from reaching the promise that saw the club move up two spots to select him in the 08 draft. With his value still at a point where it could seemingly fetch some sort of return, Gardiners shortcomings could force another such decision in the months ahead. The Toronto defence has been a source of instability all year and will certainly require an upgrade or two in the offseason. Whether Gardiner and Cody Franson, a fellow restricted free agent, fit into that mix remains to be seen. Four members of the Leaf back-end are signed beyond this season – Gleason, Rielly, Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson – all seemingly on more solid ground within the organization than either Gardiner or Franson. Theres upside there with the Minnesota native. In question is whether the Leafs will keep waiting for it. Cheap Saints Jerseys .ca/CurlingSkins - with the Top 16 curlers earning a ticket to Banff, Alta. to compete in the TRAVELERS ALL-STAR CURLING SKINS GAME Presented by Pintys, running Jan. Kamrin Moore Stitched Jersey .C. -- Al Jefferson said he feels like hes playing the best basketball of his 10-year NBA career. . After Mariota was pushed around by Stanford on Thursday, finishing 20/34 with 250 yards and two touchdowns in Oregons Title hope-crushing defeat, hes going to need a poor performance or two from the remaining frontrunners to have a shot at the most coveted individual trophy in college sports.The problem: Canadas Paralympic team performed well below expectations two years ago during the Summer Games in London. One possible solution: targeting events that attract the severely disabled and have weaker entry fields, giving Canada a chance to boost its medal count. Savvy tactic or "shameful" sportsmanship? Own The Podium, Canadas high-performance sport funding initiative, is suggesting Canadian Paralympic officials target athletes who participate in sports for the severely disabled, a strategy that could boost Canadas faltering Paralympic medal count but one that is leaving some sports marketing executives and athletes suggesting officials are using a "back door" to get more medals. The suggestion by Own The Podium officials was disclosed in documents obtained by TSN under Canadas Access to Information laws and comes after a performance by the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams in London thats described by Canadian officials as disappointing. The documents include email correspondence, post-Games briefings and audits that dissect Canadas performance at the 2012 Summer Games in London and suggest that during the lead-up to the next Olympic Games in Rio in two years, Canada is paring the number of sports and athletes it funds through the Own The Podium program. The documents were produced by Own the Podium in late 2012 and were shared with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees as well as the federal government. They highlight how Canadian officials have dropped the "please like us" veneer in favour of a more cutthroat approach to competition. Created in 2005, the Own the Podium program has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Canadas quest for medals, focusing on athletes who are predicted to have a top-three finish. In Vancouver, the program garnered widespread approval after Team Canada won 14 gold medals, tops among countries, after having been shut out of golds in the prior two Olympic Games held in Canada. In one document titled, "Confidential initial reflections from 2012 Paralympic Games," Own The Podium officials wrote Canada "took a significant step back relative to other leading nations" at the London Paralympic Games. Canada secured seven gold medals at London, half as many as Own the Podium staff had predicted for the Canadian team, according to the Oct. 4, 2012, document. "Other nations have adopted a much more professional approach in many para-sports," the document says. "There is some complacency within some para-sports in Canada. "Canada struggles with entries in events for classes with more severely disabled athletes," the document says. "Many nations appear to have targeted performance in events for female athletes with a disability… Consider strategic investments that support potential multi-gold individual athletes and events with weak depth of field such as events for athletes with severe disabilities and some events for female athletes." Own the Podium has cut funding to several Paralympic sports following London, including womens wheelchair basketball (which received a total of $986,000 in 2009-10 and 2010-11 but has not received funding since the 2012 Games) and womens goalball. Equestrians funding was also cut drastically. Still, Own The Podium has increased its funding in the Paralympics to triathlon, canoe-kayak and archery and overall, its Paralympic funding has totaled $10.1 million in the first two years of the Rio 2016 quadrennial, up from $9.4 million during the firstt two years of the London quadrennial. Will Clapp Stitched Jersey. One of the documents conclusions has been censored by the Canadian government, which cited the confidentiality of a third party. The tactic of targeting sports for the severely disabled is polarizing. "On one hand, the outcome (support for a worth cause) is good," said Mike Gilleran, executive director of the Santa Clara Universitys sports law and ethics department. "On the other, the motive, lets kick ass in this weaker depth of field for the glory of Canada is probably not the most inspirational call to arms weve ever heard." Andy Harkness, a sports marketing executive in Toronto whose clients include Canadian Tire and Scotiabank, said he doesnt like the strategy. "We shouldnt prop up our medal counts on the back of lesser known sports and athletes," Harkness said. "The rub to me is that it sounds like we are using severely disabled athletes to prop up numbers and that doesnt sound right." Jeff Adams, a Canadian Paralympian and six-time world champion in wheelchair sports, called Own The Podiums tactic "shameful." "How are the underpinnings of this document reconciled with the spirit of sport and all the motherhood and apple pie messages about not winning at all costs?" Adams told TSN. "When that win at all costs mentality is layered with win the easy medals at all costs, it becomes doubly wrong," he said. "Chasing after easy things is certainly not what sport taught me, and this sends a terrible message to athletes and to Canadians. Im embarrassed this document was created." Own The Podium chief executive Anne Merklinger said the tactic has nothing to do with cutting financial support to athletes who already are receiving help. "Its not a question of narrowing the focus," she said in an interview. "Its a question of focusing on athletes that have severe disabilities because when you look at the international scene, there are very few entries from nations in categories of athletes that have severe disabilities. That is a strategic opportunity. If Canada is able to identify athletes with severe disabilities, that is a medal opportunity for our country."Martin Richard, a spokesperson with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, said he attended a conference in 2012 when Merklinger disclosed the suggested tactic. "These were early observations," Richard said. "I understand (the concerns.) Its the language. Its direct. Theres no rationale behind it, and it opens it up for interpretation." Bob Stellick, a Toronto sports marketer, suggested Own The Podiums suggestion is a sign of the times. "It sounds harsh but really does mimic what (Canadas Olympic teams) were doing at the regular Olympics," Stellick said. "They definitely focused on more obscure and limited talent pool sports." Own The Podium also noted in the confidential documents that able-bodied Canadian Olympic teams in rowing, cycling and diving also underperformed--at a time when around the world, "escalating investment in Olympic medals has turned into an arms race." There was a "shallow pool of podium potential athletes," Merklingers group said in a Sept. 17, 2012, memo. "Anticipate that fewer sports will be targeted for 2016." Since London, Own The Podium has cut funding on the able bodied side to mens wrestling, fencing, gymnastics. Sports that have received an increase in funding include archery, tennis and womens rugby. 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