Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tom Gilbert

Admittedly, I haven't been following Tom Gilbert very closely this season. Over the past 2 weeks I've tried to catch up a bit, and today I have some more catch-up material.
  • Apparently the defensive pairings were switched up in November. After starting the season paired with Denis Grebeshkov, Gilbert is now paired with Sheldon Souray. And according to Mudcrutch, Souray-Gilbert have been playing the toughest minutes, facing the toughest competition.
  • Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal has a nice article praising the Oilers' D-corps, including Gilbert.
    "You're never really comfortable playing against the Oilers because of this (blue-line strength), even when leading by three goals, you're three shifts from being tied. It's a little unnerving," said Hitchcock.
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    "If you don't have defencemen who can get the puck up the ice, you spend so much time in your end, and when you do get it as a forward, it's around the boards or off the boards into the neutral zone and the forwards have to come back so hard to get the puck," said Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy. "You need defencemen who can get the puck to forwards with some speed, one or two tape-to-tape passes and that's how your create offence."

    "Every time Gibby (Gilbert) touches the puck now he's making a play, and Lubomir was a handful all night for Columbus; he was flying out there. Sheldon's played great all year," added Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

    "Mac (MacTavish) wants us to be as much of an offensive threat as the forwards ... that's all six of our D-men," said Gilbert. "It's tough to defend when you have defencemen coming late into plays and we get lots of shots from the back end, too."
  • Oilertown posted player report cards for the half-way point in the season (41 games).
    Tom Gilbert: B+
    Gilbert is going to hit near 40 points this season, and considering he's the third best point-producer from the back-end, that's quite impressive. I thought he got off to a little bit of a tough start, but he's closed up his game since joining Souray. His contract is pretty massive, but I think he'll be every bit worth it for the duration of it. He's a really solid defenceman.
  • I didn't realize this until last night, but Bruce at Oil Droppings has been grading players' game performances periodically during the season. Here's what he had to say about Gilbert:
    Oilers 5 - Capitals 2 (1/13/09)
    Tom Gilbert - 5: Recovered from a horrid first period to make a solid contribution down the stretch. Had a horrendous giveaway 20 seconds in where Roli saved his bacon, made another bad pass right to Semin minutes later.

    Flames 6 - Oilers 4 (12/31/08)
    Tom Gilbert - 6: Had a far more effective game than his regular partner Souray, contributing an assist on a second-unit powerplay goal and another on Cole's meaningless late tally. Wasn't on for a Calgary goal in his 17:21.

    Senators 3 - Oilers 2 (12/30/08)
    Tom Gilbert - 7: An effective night with 4 shots, 2 blocks, +1 and a Corsi of +10. Landed a couple of beauty body checks in the first, neither of which seemed to register with the RTSS counter for whatever reason. When Gilbert does decide to step up as a surprise tactic he can be an effective hitter.

    Oilers 7 - Blue Jackets 2 (11/18/08)
    Tom Gilbert – 8: Probably played his best game of the season, a goal, a helper, +3, and 3 blocked shots. Looked composed with the puck when under pressure, a trademark of Tom’s A game, and broke the puck out of his end well.

    It's a bit misleading, I think, that Gilbert's game grades here declined from 11/18 to 1/13, as the general consensus seems to be that he has improved his play over the course of the season. I think we need to remember that there's a lot of data missing here, as Bruce only graded a handful of the Oilers' 46 GP, so we can't really draw trends from it. (Regardless, it's nice to see that Bruce has never given Gilbert anything lower than a 5.) Also, Bruce only graded one game from the 2nd half of the season in which Gilbert is 1-5-6, +3 in 5 games. I'll be interested in seeing future grades.
The Oil return from the All-Star break tonight by taking on the Sabres in Edmonton at 8PM CST. Perhaps I'll do a better job following them from here-on. (I'll at least try.)