Tom Gilbert Inside Out

Lowetide
November 27 2010 03:13AM

Playing defense in the NHL during the post-lockout era is one of the toughest jobs in sports. Gone are the days of clutch and grab, subtle stickwork is now rewarded with a whistle and 2 minutes in the box and the old standby (holding the stick) is now called "holding the stick" and comes with 2 more minutes in the sinbin. An entire player type (the plodding defender with size and a terrific wingspan) was nailed to the Cory Cross when management discovered faster wheels were required in the "new NHL." What happens when a "wheels" defenseman falls on hard times? 
 

The first thing we need to do is identify what "hard times" look like. When we say "my eyes tell me" history often shows that our eyes are wrong. So, let's have a look at Tom Gilbert over the last several seasons and see what his plus minus numbers were doing:

  • 07-08: Gilbert -6 on a -14 team
  • 08-09: Gilbert +6 on a +7 team
  • 09-10: Gilbert -10 on a -56 team
  • 10-11: Gilbert -7 on a -17 team (so far)

If we can agree that a fair measure of an "NHL pairing" is one third of a team's overall plus minus for a season (three pairings, divide the overall number by three) we get this:

  • 07-08: -6 when -5 would be average
  • 08-09: +6 when +2 would be average
  • 09-10: -10 when -19 would be average
  • 10-11: -7 when -6 would be average (so far)

So, a brief summary of his career might go like this: impressive as a rookie (just past average, that's terrific for a rookie); well above average in seasons two and three and then (so far) about average in year four. Fair?

I know relCorsi is a dirty word around these parts, so won't get too far into it. I will say that Gilbert is in the black relCorsi this season and has been every season of his NHL career:

  • 07-08: +1.5
  • 08-09: +2.6
  • 09-10: +8.1
  • 10-11: +2.0

I absolutely know Tom Gilbert has been the goat on many plays this season, and that he spent much of last year looking exposed. History teaches us that NHL defensemen lose previous performance levels for (mainly) two reasons: injury and changes in how they are used. I have no evidence of injury in the case of Gilbert (although he blocks a lot of shots so we know he's banged up a little bit at least by this time in the season), so we fall back on how he's being used. Let's list Gilbert's playing time (and when he's used) by season:

  • 07-08: 17:24EV; 2:15PP; 2:51PK
  • 08-09: 16:31EV; 2:54PP; 2:32PK
  • 09-10: 16:46EV; 2:59PP; 2:39PK
  • 10-11: 17:54EV; 2:52PP; 2:47PK

Man, that is consistent. Seriously. Tom Gilbert plays every game and plays a lot every game. I bet there aren't many NHL defensemen who have delivered that kind of consistency over the last 4 seasons. With that kind of consistent playing time, has he been consistent offensively?

  • 07-08: 0.98 5x5/60; 3.01 5x4/60
  • 08-09: 1.30 5x5/60; 3.91 5x4/60
  • 09-10: 0.92 5x5/60; 2.24 5x4/60
  • 10-11: 1.22 5x5/60; 0.00 5x4/60

Pretty consistent at even strength and his PP numbers were good until this season. We should probably assume Gilbert will return to the median in this era and that the putts will drop as the season rolls along (all 10-11 stats will be more reliable as the GP rises). So consistent according to our friend math. Hmmm.

May I suggest something? I think maybe some of us (certainly me) are viewing the game through those pre-lockout eyes and all those mistakes are adding up quickly in our collective brains. Tom Gilbert has been exposed this season (and much of last) but that's part of the new NHL. If the opposition is going to fly 40 sorties into your airspace every night (and you can't use the weapons that were previously available) then a lot more bombs are going to drop. And if the goalie is less than league average then some or a lot is going to get on you. It has been this way since Henry Shrapnel was a kid.

I believe that's partly what we're seeing here, along with Gilbert being in a bad stretch in terms of decision making. He's an NHL veteran now, those tentative decisions will soon be replaced by those butter outlet passes. Gilbert should recover, his resume suggests he's quality and there are no injuries we know about with this player.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#101 hoil
November 28 2010, 08:19AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

You should check out DSF's own blog, fine work... fine work indeed.

I will have to take your word for it...I would look it up, but I, err...broke my Googler...yeah, that's the ticket.

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#102 shadylady
November 28 2010, 08:43AM
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Wish I believed in Tom as much as you do. Al ii want from Gilbert is to play to his contract $ level. That's it. I think that's what anyone should expect. Any less, and you're overpaid. Tommy has been in that catagory for awhile now. To long of awhile. It's like he can't think the game anymore. Good luck to him. I hope he comes out of it.

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#103 russ99
November 28 2010, 09:07AM
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Great article LT, good to see both sides of the argument,.

IMO, where Gilbert has fallen apart was last year during those many games when the Oilers couldn't get the puck out of their own zone, which caused shellshock.

Now, he's lacking the confidence to make the right quick decision, because in the back of his mind, that kind of "trapped in the zone" thing could happen at any time. I also think that Gilbert doesnt really have a comfort zone on defense, and is most relaxed when moving the puck the other way.

It seems other players have bought in to the coaching staff and their system and aren't making the same defensive zone mistakes as last year, but Gilbert has this mental block to get over.

He's played better the last two games, despite yesterday's giveaway, so hopefully he's turning the corner a bit.

I hope he does, since he really could be a difference maker with the puck, especially if the team decides to invest more in the defense in rebuild year 2.

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#104 Pressure
November 29 2010, 10:26AM
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Not going to lie, I believe I just lost all respect for you and your writing. Tom Gilbert has been a horrendous defenceman for a long time now. Obviously that contract is what keeps him around and not being shipped. He has made glaring/exposed defensive miscues that any junior player can make, and the worst part is, he does it on a consistent basis. Second assists tell one story, the eyes say another.

He's not a young defenceman learning the reigns, he's considered a vet now and what should be the prime of his career while making prime time dollars. If you're using numbers as a crutch, you might as well just watch boxscores and grade if from there.

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#105 Microsoft Office 2007
December 10 2010, 11:13PM
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