Comparables for Tom Gilbert

Jonathan Willis
December 29 2008 11:12AM

Robin Brownlee made a comment a few posts down suggesting that Tom Gilbert, as an older rookie, likely had a lower ceiling than many fans (myself included) were projecting, and presumably lower than the Oilers brain trust was projecting (feel free to step in if I misrepresent your viewpoint, Robin). I think most of us can agree that a 24-year-old who scores 30 points isn’t as promising as a 19-year-old who manages the same.

Still, I think that college players, and particularly defencemen, have a habit of emerging as older rookies and still showing decent progress as time goes by. Since I have no proof of this, I thought I would try and find some players who have had a similar career curve to Gilbert’s, just to get an idea of what other players in similar situations have done.

For starters, the player needs to be big (Gilbert is listed at 6’3” and 206lbs) but not overly physical, and be a college-trained defenseman. He should also have a similar career path to Gilbert’s, illustrated below by age and points-per-game:

18: .49 PPG, USHL (drafted #129 overall by Colorado)

19: .51 PPG, NCAA

20: .54 PPG, NCAA

21: .41 PPG, NCAA

22: .72 PPG, NCAA

23: .63 PPG, AHL

.50 PPG, NHL (only 12 GP)

24: .40 PPG, NHL

25: .44 PPG, NHL (through 34 games)

With that in mind, here are the active players I found with similar curves:

Adrian Aucoin – 6’2”, 210lbs

18: .38 PPG, NCAA (drafted #117 overall by Vancouver)

19: .43 PPG, Intl.

20: .27 PPG, Intl.

.23 PPG, AHL (only 13 GP)

21: .44 PPG, AHL

22: .62 PPG, AHL

.37 PPG, NHL

23: .30 PPG, NHL

24: .17 PPG, NHL (only 35 GP due to injury)

25: .41 PPG, NHL

Aucoin isn’t a perfect comparable, since he turned pro earlier on, but he is close. His breakout NHL performance came in his second full NHL season, at age 25. He’s been troubled by groin problems for most of his NHL career, but when healthy has produced well, if not much better than he did at 25. Here’s his career the rest of the way:

26: .42 PPG, NHL

27: .38 PPG, NHL

28: .42 PPG, NHL

29: .48 PPG, NHL

30: .54 PPG, NHL

31: .43 PPG, SEL (NHL lockout, only 14 GP)

32: .18 PPG, NHL (only 33GP due to injury)

33: .27 PPG, NHL

34: .46 PPG, NHL

35: .34 PPG, NHL (through 35 games)

Aucoin has consistently put up between 22 and 44 points when healthy; in other words, there wasn’t much improvement following his breakout year, at least in terms of offensive production.

Joe Corvo – 6’1”, 210lbs

18: .73 PPG, NCAA

19: 1.03 PPG, NCAA (drafted #83 overall by Los Angeles)

20: .53 PPG, NCAA

21: .40 PPG, AHL

22: .63 PPG, AHL

23: 1.00 PPG, AHL

.24 PPG, NHL

24: .35 PPG, NHL

25: .61 PPG, AHL (NHL lockout, only 23 GP)

Corvo isn’t a perfect comparable either, but again he’s very close. Tom Gilbert comes out a bit ahead of him at this point; probably due to the NHL lockout more than anything. Here’s Player B’s performance to date:

26: .49 PPG, NHL

27: .49 PPG, NHL

28: .65 PPG, NHL

29: .43 PPG, NHL (through 37 games)

Corvo’s offensive performance has spiked since his first full NHL season; over full seasons he’s been on pace for between 40 and 53 points.

Tom Poti – 6’3”, 215lbs

18: 2.52 PPG, High School (drafted #59 overall by Edmonton)

19: .55 PPG, NCAA

20: 1.11 PPG, NCAA

21: .29 PPG, NHL

22: .46 PPG, NHL

23: .40 PPG, NHL

24: .38 PPG, NHL

25: .60 PPG, NHL

Poti’s career path hasn’t been similar to Gilbert’s, but he is a very similar player in terms of size, style and results. Poti jumped to the NHL much quicker than Gilbert did and put up his first good offensive season at a much younger age.

26: .36 PPG, NHL

27: .32 PPG, NHL

28: .56 PPG, NHL

29: .41 PPG, NHL

30: .43 PPG, NHL

Poti’s offence has never been as high as it was in his breakout season; he’s been on pace (over an 82-game season) for between 26 and 49 points since.

Conclusions

This is a rough study at best, given the small sample size and the potential for variation. That said, it’s probably enough for us to say that expecting massive improvement in Gilbert’s offensive totals would be a mistake –- he’s much more likely to experience modest improvement in his offensive game, with peaks and valleys, from this point on.

Is a consistent 35 point defenceman worth $4 million a season if he isn’t bringing a physical game? I’d say it depends on how much his defensive game improves -– if he can handle the toughest opposition (i.e. top pairing minutes) while putting up that kind of production, than I would say yes. I would also argue that Gilbert would be very likely to receive an offer greater than the one he signed with the Oilers if he were an unrestricted free agent.

In other words, it probably isn’t going to be a steal, but it’s probably not going to be a boat anchor either.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Chris
December 29 2008, 11:33AM
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As long as other teams are interested in obtaining Gilbert's services the contract is good... so let's forget about the money for a second and ask some more important questions: 1) Will Gilbert be a top pair defender moving forward? 2) If not...Do you want a SOFT shutdown man?

With Visnovsky and Souray both under contract I say no to question #1. As for question #2, I also say no. This team has waaay too much soft-skill and Gilbert falls into that category. I would love to see the Oilers obtain a hulking shutdown D-man with a mean streak. I'm talking Ulanov/Marchment mean! But also someone who can strike fear in the hearts of opposing forwards while playing solid quality minutes. If Gilbert has enough stock around the league to fetch such a player then pull the trigger already! (I suspect he does not)

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#2 Fiveandagame
December 29 2008, 11:39AM
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Those are good players to be in company with (my own personal disdain for Poti aside)

I think this is an argument based on a glass half full/half empty senario.

Willis, I think you like many fans want to believe in the potential of players to develop and improve. You believe that if Gilbert can maintain his offensive output (without top PP time) and improve in his own end he is more than worth the money.

And I think Brownlee is a "realist" in what you see is what you get. If Gilbert's Level of play never progresses from this point on, he is overpaid, especially the year he gets a whopping 5.5 mil.

Both are valuable points and both have merit.

But is 4 mil per year to much for a d-man on your top pairing? I think regardless of the rest of his contract he is playing on the top pairing and making 4mil. I don't see any gross over payment in that, nor is it an incredible steal of a deal.

The Oilers boat anchor salaries are, Horcoff, Pisani, Moreau and Staios but even those aren't going to force the Oilers in a buyout situation which it the mark of a terrible deal by overly optimistic GM's

Both Souray and Visnovski while highly paid would surely have garnered more lucrative contracts this year had they been free agents. If Souray were a UFA this year he would be making well over a 6mil average, up in the Pronger, Phaneuf range.

And I also have no idea why I am sticking my nose in this, could be because I have been up since 5am and have had nothing better to do.

GOILERS!

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#3 Smokin' Ray
December 29 2008, 12:16PM
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Not sure how the focus turned to Gilbert? I thought everyone was hating on MacT? Sure Gilbert's contract is a little over paid. We all knew that when it happened. Oh well. He is an Oiler still right? People said the same thing about Souray last year.

So why are we not talking about Horcoff's contract instead? The team is getting hosed on that deal no matter how many points he gets. His defensive play this year has been average or below average all year. Remember when he was signed for $3.6 m a year. We all thought we were hosed then. Why not now?

I personally like Gilbert. He plays pretty solid. He makes mistakes but who hasn't this year? How many points do we expect out of him? 50? 60? 70? 80?

Or do we as "fans" just have to talk about something negative...

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#4 baggedmilk
December 29 2008, 12:35PM
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@ Smokin' Ray:

Praise be to Ala for this comment, Smokin' Ray. The Horcoff contract is awful. I can't wait for him to be a $7 million cap hit next year. Absolutely gross.

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#5 Darcy
December 29 2008, 12:38PM
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Good Post.

I thought Robin was being a little cranky in the other thread, good to see some comparables.

He may be slightly overpaid, but as another poster alluded to, its no where near the worst on the team.

With the good young defensive talent the Oilers have coming (Peckham, Plante, Petry, Chorny...include Roy and Wild if you want) they can move Gilbert or Grebs for some help where they need it, and having Gilbert locked in at 4.0M(cap) until the end of 13/14 adds worth to him as an asset as opposed to someone with 1 or 2 years left until they are a UFA.

With Grebs being an RFA Lowebellini has two very good assets that he needs to turn into either help on the left wing for Hemsky or a good 3rd line center who can win a faceoff.

Obviously you won't get a first line LW with just one of these two, but they would be an important part of the package.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
December 29 2008, 12:39PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

I can’t wait for him to be a $7 million cap hit next year.

5.5m cap hit, 7m actual salary.

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#7 Darcy
December 29 2008, 12:39PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

@ Smokin’ Ray: Praise be to Ala for this comment, Smokin’ Ray. The Horcoff contract is awful. I can’t wait for him to be a $7 million cap hit next year. Absolutely gross.

He's a 5.5M cap hit. 33M over 6 years.

His salary is structured 7M, 6.5M, 6.5M, 6.0M, 4.0M, 3.0M

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#8 Wanye Gretz
December 29 2008, 12:43PM
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Good article Willis. Baggedmilk - go to your room. I love Horcoff. $7 million? That's $3.5 mil per eye color

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#9 David Supina
December 29 2008, 12:44PM
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I think we've seen most of the raw tools that Gilbert can use at this level. What is still to come is consistency from game to game at the NHL level, and when that comes, we can expect a better player. It's not as though last year we saw Tom Gilbert be his best every game... he had stretches where he struggled. If he can eliminate those, he can be a 20+ minute defenceman who can score you 40 points. Just by bringing his high end game that we've seen over the past season and a half with more consistency.

Gilbert can be a more physical player, too. He's certainly got the size and skating ability to knock some people off the puck, but we'll see if that becomes a part of his game.

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#10 Jonathan Willis
December 29 2008, 12:46PM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

$7 million? That’s $3.5 mil per eye color.

A veritable bargain!

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#11 baggedmilk
December 29 2008, 12:50PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: and @ Darcy:

Look at you with your Cap knowledge. Shamed me again Willis, you scoundrel.

@ Wanye Gretz:

Fine! I hate you!

*runs to room and slams door, turns up 'Highway to the Danger Zone' really loud*

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#12 Corbs
December 29 2008, 12:55PM
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@ Fiveandagame: "Those are good players to be in company with (my own personal disdain for Poti aside)"

I dunno about that being good company, imo middling at best, when taking into consideration their defensive qualities...

@Smokin' Ray: "Not sure how the focus turned to Gilbert? I thought everyone was hating on MacT? Sure Gilbert’s contract is a little over paid. We all knew that when it happened. Oh well...

So why are we not talking about Horcoff’s contract instead?"

haha, i liked this post..

With all the talk of 'bad' contracts, why isnt the criticism falling on the management staff.. Klowe specifically... its hard to believe the gilbert camp came up with a number like 5.5M for any single season, regardless how the cap average could be used to justify it... there simply are too many contracts like this, so either criticism falls on management or we as fans shudder at the thought that it is 'neccessary' to over pay...

Last thought, actually relating to the post by jonathan.. I didnt really like the comps (auccoin is physical isnt he?, poti stinks and makes less, corvo had better pedigree and makes less), but assume it was a difficult task.. The keeper insight it provided tho was that once these players established themselves their ppg remained consistant... meaning, dont get too high on the fumes of 'org-promised potential'...

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#13 kris
December 29 2008, 01:10PM
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You know, 4 million isn't exactly a big contract these days.

Suppose each team spends 46 million on 23 players; that means an average player salary would be 2 million bucks.

You save money by playing a few rookies and sophomores, a couple of league-mimimum, bottom 6 grinders, at least one cheap D-man, a cheap backup goalie. Basically, you try to get spare parts for cheap. (This is where the Oil have failed financially this year: see Staios, Moreau, and Cole and their 7 million plus cap hit.)

Gilbert might be a good, top pairing defenseman. But even if he turns into an average second pairing defenseman who moves the puck and sees some PP time, 3-4 million is about right for an above average player.

And to all the people who think the cap is going to go down, remember that the current recession in the U.S. won't last forever. Betting against the American economy in the long term is, and always has been, a bad play.

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#14 Ducey
December 29 2008, 01:35PM
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I see Tom Gilbert as quite similar to Poti. Poti was a pretty valuable player offensively, he just couldn't consistently play defence. Gilbert has show he can play against the other teams top unit and play consistent defence. This will only improve as he seems to have the intelligence necessary.

For his production and defence, he is a fair deal. Is he Chris Pronger, no. But he isn't being paid like him either. The Oilers are always going to have to overpay a little until they become a place where guys see themselves winning a cup.

The bigger issue is what is going to happen with/ as a result of Grebs. I am not sure the Oilers can fit another $3 or $3.5 Million a year into their backend given all the big tickets they have back there already. Do they move Grebs at the deadline? Do they sign him and trade one of the others (Staios, Vishnovsky)? Hopefully they just don't let him go for nothing.

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#15 Cam
December 29 2008, 01:45PM
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I hope that they keep Gilbert, Souray, and Visnovsky. If Souray doesn't drop off and Gilbert can learn from Visnovsky I think that is a pretty solid top three and we have some good spare parts in the system to support them.

After watching the last three games I am starting to see why the Oilers Brass were so excited to bring in Cole this summer. He has been a difference maker and if he continues to play like that I hope he isn't part of any upcoming trades since we will not get full value for him.

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#16 Jeetz
December 29 2008, 01:52PM
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I hate to say it, but I believe the Oilers will be trading Gilbert sooner than later.

Reason #1. Gilbert is a puck moving defensman first and foremost, doesn't get pushed around and is not a defensive liability. Those type of Dmen are coveted by GMs in this league. (that alone makes him worth the 4 mil cap hit).

Reason #2. I think everyone agrees the Oilers need to make a 2-4 players for 1 player type trade real soon. The player coming back to us will likely have a large salary. We will have to move some salary to take that that on and Gilbert is the right balance of affordibility, current skill level and future potential.

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#17 Chris
December 29 2008, 02:07PM
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Cam wrote:

I hope that they keep Gilbert, Souray, and Visnovsky. If Souray doesn’t drop off and Gilbert can learn from Visnovsky I think that is a pretty solid top three and we have some good spare parts in the system to support them.

Problem is there are holes on this team and nobody wants Grebs, Staios, or Smid. Nobody wants Schremp, Reddox, Garon, Nilsson etc either. It takes quality to get quality. As per Gregor's earlier post Lowbellini will have to consider moving at least a Cogliano, Deslaurier, or Gilbert to gain a quality asset to help address issues with team toughness, chemistry, faceoffs etc. Or now that the team has won three in a row has everyone decided the roster is well balanced and competative as is? I'm not planning the parade route yet!

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#18 Jonathan Willis
December 29 2008, 02:19PM
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Chris wrote:

Problem is there are holes on this team and nobody wants Grebs, Staios, or Smid.

There were definitely teams interested in Staios at the deadline last season; I don't know if that's still the case.

I think Grebeshkov and Smid are obviously valuable; a puck-moving defenceman is always valuable and usually hard to get (as the 2006-07 Oilers could attest), while Smid has more than 150 NHL games at a young age and offers size and a developing mean streak.

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#19 MattL
December 29 2008, 02:36PM
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Gilbert has been developing a better physical game this year, and is starting to regain the confidence he had last year, after a pretty brutal start to the year. I think you find out whether Grebs is going to stay in N.A. next year, or move back to the land of dead defibrillator batteries before you even think about moving Gilbert.

I have no studies to back myself up, but I would assume that while offensive numbers plateau for players like the ones you mentioned, their defensive games slowly improve over the rest of their careers. I say Gilbert is a valuable asset on any team, and probably won't turn into an overpay.

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#20 Chris
December 29 2008, 02:51PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Staios comes with a big cap hit for what you get. It's hard to imagine Lowbellini could move him for someone who could really help this roster improve. Smid has been, and remains a bottom pair/depth D-man. Grebs is inconsistant and I seriously doubt Gilbert will ever play with the kind of edge the Oilers are lacking on the back end. Think MEAN! I like Gilbert...but is he or will he ever be a top two? I need to see more powerplay production from him to compensate for lack of tougness or Gilbert isn't worth the MINUTES let alone the dollars. All of this being said with the base assumption that the Oilers are aspiring to be a serious contender and not just a middling pretender. Players like Gilbert totally would help Columbus but would they grab top minutes with a team like Detroit?

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#21 Jonathan Willis
December 29 2008, 03:40PM
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@ Chris:

Detroit's Top-Six, by TOI

Lidstrom Kronwall Rafalski Stuart Lilja Lebda

Edmonton's Top-Six, by TOI

Souray Visnovsky Gilbert Grebeshkov Staios Smid

I'd guess that Gilbert would drop a spot and slide in to the #4 spot in Detroit (Stuart's having a poor year).

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#22 Tim S
December 29 2008, 03:46PM
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I tend to agree with Robin B, what you see is what you get with Gilbert. And on a team that has long term money in Souray and Vishnovsky and touted future puck movers in Chorney and Petry, if you can get a return of Gilbert plus for a legit top 6 forward with some size then make the deal.

The comparable mentioned above leaves alot to be desired. If Gilbert ends up as any of the 3 then we overpayed.

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#23 kris
December 29 2008, 04:43PM
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Here's another thing to keep in mind: Gilbert got a bit of a bonus -maybe 300 grand a year or so?- as a sort of incentive for all the Oiler's young players. The idea is simple: if you develop and do the things we're asking, you'll get rewarded.

In fact, even though Lowe has created problems by overpaying veterans like Moreau, Staios, Roloson, etc., he has given the Oil a reputation as a team that rewards it's veterans. And hey, Edmonton doesn't have a reputation like the south of France. Indeed, maybe Lowe's mad overpays are more methodical than we think.

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#24 RobinB
December 29 2008, 05:03PM
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@ kris: And just maybe Lowe just didn't get good enough projections on the possibility of the cap going down after the first year of Gilbert's contract in the same way he admitted to not knowing how much it would go up during negotiations with Ryan Smyth.

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#25 Smokin' Ray
December 29 2008, 05:34PM
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Ducey wrote:

I see Tom Gilbert as quite similar to Poti.
Except Poti was allergic to everthing. Including himself. Geez i'm funny...
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#26 Smokin' Ray
December 29 2008, 05:53PM
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@ kris:

Can you explain where Horcoff fits in those two categories? Veteran or Youth?

Or do you get rewarded for just being here? If so... Where do I sign up?

AND...

Klowe made himself look like a donkey when he made the statement that no one would ever have a NTC with the Oilers. We don't do that he said. How many guys on this team right now have a NTC? How many people on this current team make more than Smyth was asking for? And that was laughed at by KLowe. Now what? Who's laughing?

AND...

At the end of the day, $4m for Gilbert isn't really that bad. $3m is more real. But $4m is livable. And I would NOT trade him. Staios is the one out of the six that needs to go.

AND for BaggedMilk...

"Out along the edges Always where I burn to be The further on the edge The hotter the intensity

Highway to the Danger Zone Gonna take you Right into the Danger Zone

Highway to the Danger Zone"

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#27 David Staples
December 29 2008, 07:27PM
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Nice work, Jonathan. Your comparable does what a lot of hockey-related comparables fail to do -- you compare only apples to apples. You're not comparing Gilbert to guys who are tiny, or guys who are hard-hitting monsters, and when it comes to hockey comparables, I think this is crucial. I think your conclusion is likely bang on, and that seems to mesh with what Brownlee has said about Gilbert: Don't get your hopes too high. (When I think of Gilbert, I think: Joe Micheletti. I wonder if that comparable holds).

I'm also wondering if roughly the same deal applies for Grebs?

For Smid, I think the future is very likely much brighter.

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#28 Corbs
December 30 2008, 10:10AM
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Chris wrote:

Cam wrote: ... As per Gregor’s earlier post Lowbellini will have to consider moving at least a Cogliano, Deslaurier, or Gilbert to gain a quality asset to help address issues with team toughness, chemistry, faceoffs etc.

Although trading either of those three would bring back "a quality asset" I totally disagree that any of them 'have' to go in order to acquire someone that can contribute to "team toughness, (chemistry-wtf?!), faceoffs".. for that you need a tough faceoff guy...

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