March 16 2010 02:02PM
With all the times I've said the Edmonton Oilers could or should trade Tom Gilbert, it doesn't surprise me some fans have the impression I've got a problem with the guy. Not so.
While I cringe whenever I see a defenceman blessed with mobility and size not take advantage of those attributes by playing a physical game -- exactly what's caused me to nag at Gilbert -- the 1,067 times I've suggested he be traded had more to do with his potential value in a deal and the mix on Edmonton's blue line.
Now, with Lubomir Visnovsky, Denis Grebeshkov and Steve Staios out the door as of the trade deadline, and with Sheldon Souray likely next to go, the mix has obviously changed significantly.
Barring somebody making a goofy offer that would land Steve Tambellini a young, top-six winger who can score 25-30 goals (does Scott Howson have one?), it makes no sense to trade Gilbert now.
Despite seeing Gilbert and partner Ryan Whitney getting torched in Monday's 5-3 loss to Columbus, I've mostly liked the way he has played the last month or so, especially since the deadline (Monday aside) with Visnovsky, Staios and Grebeshkov gone.
The Oilers need what Gilbert brings.
Change in perspective
When the Oilers had Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Visnovsky and Souray in the fold, it made sense to me that Tambellini should take advantage of that depth and move one of them to acquire help up front.
I didn't think Tambellini could move the contracts Visnovsky and Souray pack. I didn't think he could get much of a return for Grebeshkov. That, to me, made Gilbert the guy to go, especially after the 45 points (5-40-45) he put up in 2008-09.
While I might yet be proven wrong, I saw those 45 points as a one-off. I suggested those numbers were swollen by second assists and wrote in the aftermath he wouldn't match that points total the rest of his career. We'll see. Last summer would have been the time to see if there was a GM who disagreed. A GM to overpay.
Given how heinous the Oilers have been this season, it's not surprising that Gilbert's numbers are more modest -- 2-13-15 through 69 games going into Minnesota tonight. It's tough to look good with this outfit right now. Gilbert has been no exception. Still, there's no reason to believe he can't rebound next season, settling into the 30-35 point range on a team that won't be leaps and bounds better.
Points aside, Gilbert is the team's best shot-blocker. He's a smart player. And, he's been more committed to leaning on people and getting in the way since coach Pat Quinn sat him down for a talk.
Gilbert, 27, packs a $4-million cap hit for four more years, and in terms of straight salary, he'll be Tambellini's highest paid blueliner next season at $5.5 million.
If Souray gets moved this summer, there's no reason Gilbert can't keep playing the minutes he has since the deadline. Gilbert's averaging 22:10 of ice time per game this season. His totals in the last seven games are 22:34, 26:16, 27:49, 27:07, 24:42, 25:34 and 26:32.
While Gilbert and Whitney are too much alike for some -- non-physical puck-movers -- it looks to me like they'd be fine as Quinn's first pairing next season on a team that won't contend. Beyond that, as in going into the 2011-12 season, it will get dicey if this team is to progress on its rebuild, but that's a discussion for another day.
If Souray goes, it'll be Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham, pending UFA Aaron Johnson, assuming Tambellini offers him a contract, Taylor Chorney and possibly Jeff Petry in the other slots.
Even with Johnson impressing since arriving from Calgary, that group is thin in grit and experience on the bottom end. Tambellini would be smart to find a veteran free agent as a stop-gap.
In any case, Gilbert is anything but a spare part or redundant now.
Somebody stop me
With Doug MacLean hanging out with the white strip and make-up crowd on Sportsnet's between-period TV panel instead of buggering things up in anybody's front office, is there an NHL GM willing to pluck Devan Dubnyk off waivers next season? I can't see it.
Dubnyk, 23, whiffed on at two goals at Nationwide Arena to remain winless in 13 appearances with a 0-8-2 record, a 4.16 goals against average and a saves percentage of .868.
An intriguing storyline after Nikolai Khabibulin went down was that Jeff Deslauriers and Dubnyk would have to battle it out for pecking order the rest of the season as both will need waivers to be sent to the minors next season. That's out the window.
As up-and-down as Deslauriers has been -- he's 14-24-3 with a 3.16 and a saves percentage that's 33 points better at .901 -- it's been no contest. Even allowing for how bad this team is, Dubnyk has done precious little to push the issue and force a decision at training camp next season.
The Oilers will be able to assign Dubnyk to the minors, dress him up like Rupaul and put him on a jet bound for Oklahoma City accompanied by Rob Daum in clown pants and nobody will blink an eye.
-- The Oilers haven't won at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in 12 straight games, a string of futility dating back to a 2-1 victory over the Wild on Jan. 16, 2007. They've been outscored 43-14 in that stretch.
That, it so happens, is the last road game I worked as the beat man covering the Oilers for the tabloid in town. Coincidence? I think not. Up until then, the Oilers were 10-2-2-1 in Minny on my watch.
-- Somebody e-mailed into 630 CHED's post-game show Monday and asked why Quinn chews gum all the time and what flavour he prefers. Well, Quinn prefers Juicy Fruit, and he chews it to get the bitter taste of defeat out of his mouth.
-- Tambellini can give Johnson a $100,000 raise to bump him to $640,000 and that'll still save him $60,000 on what Jason Strudwick is earning this season. Bargain, no?
By the numbers
-- The Oilers are 1-14-1 in their last 16 road games and sit at 8-23-3 for 19 points overall. The franchise low for road points in a full season is 23 (1992-93), so they'll need five points from their final seven road games to avoid tying a record for ineptitude.
-- Gilbert needs one point to reach 100 for his NHL career. Going into tonight, he's at 21-78-99 and minus-17 in 245 games.
-- The Oilers sit at a franchise-record 405 man games lost to injury going into tonight's game. The previous high was 346, set in 2007-08.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.