Three decades before the heated Jake Gardiner NHL vs. AHL debate became one of the most polarizing topics in Toronto sports, the Maple Leafs faced similar tough decisions with three of their young defencemen.

Back in 1981-82, Leafs management opted to throw a trio of teenagers into the NHL wars rather than give them time to develop on the farm.

And with that one decision, it would be baptism by fire for Bob McGill, 19, Fred Boimistruck, 19, and Jim Benning, 18.

Upon further review, it proved to be, in the minds of many, one of the worst gaffs the Leafs organization ever made. Benning and Boimistruck never lived up anywhere near to expectations while McGill grinded his way to a blue-collar professional career.

“I think I was rushed,” Benning, now the assistant GM of the Boston Bruins, told the Toronto Sun in 2009, “But I had no choice. That’s the direction management went. I just had to go along.”

Thirty-two years later, there is a school of thought that Gardiner should remain with the Marlies right now instead of being called up to help the wobbling Leafs. In justifying the argument that Gardiner stay on the farm, the example of the failed McGill-Benning-Boimistruck experiment often is brought up.

Of course, you won’t hear that logic coming from McGill himself.