A push for the playoffs is not the time for watching a prospect develop, hence Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle’s present reluctance to make Jake Gardiner a full-time member of his blueline.

Gardiner was a healthy scratch for Thursday’s meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes, a status the coach doesn’t seem to suggest will end any time soon — barring injury or poor play by any of the other six defencemen currently on the roster.

“He’s got to be better defensively, simple as that,” Carlyle said following his team’s Friday practice at the MasterCard Centre. “We’ve asked him and he’s very well aware of the expectations.