Times change: no more Tom Gilbert trade talk

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

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.

Looking ahead

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.

Just saying…

— 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.

  • Plasmanut

    Robin, I agree wholeheartedly with your reasoning and I know I'm beating on a dead horse by saying this, but what in the world was Kevin Lowe thinking when he signed Gilbert to such a hefty contract?

    I don't think there's any question the only reason Gilbert did NOT get moved at the deadline was because he is grossly overpaid.

    He's one of those "late-bloomers", no question and I liked his progress up until this season. But his play this year (poor offensive contribution) in relation to his salary almost takes him into…dare I say… Horcoff territory.

    I heard it said that he might be missing Huddy's guidance.

  • Librarian Mike

    Why do we have to trade Souray? Is it for cap space or lack of confidence in his abilities? I think if he stopped fighting, he wouldn't get hurt so much. I would like to see him stay. The hometown/province angle, toughness, his shot etc, are good atributes. I seriously think he would be a good captain. Maybe I'm out to lunch.

  • Librarian Mike

    Agree with Robin that the ability to unload the big ticket (Visnovsky for now — maybe Souray) is what kept Gilbert in town.

    Also agree that Johnson is worth the contract at $100K more…he's a positive contributer if he stays within the boundaries of what he is good at.

    Im getting bad feelings about Peckham….really not sure about his foot speed and positioning. Have seen too many times where he is out of position or just cant keep up…and yes I know he brings a lot of grit/sandpaper.

    The number of man games lost is astounding…anyone have any idea what the league record is … anyone ??

  • Librarian Mike

    Asked a question that I can answer…a CBC Website says the most was the 2003/04 Kings …629 games … 200-300 appears to be the norm.

    Scanned Hockey DB for the Kings Roster and the Oil injury woes are due to Visnovsky, Grebeshkov and once Oilers Steve Kelly, Bryan Muir and Anson Carter…good thing we ran these guys out of town!!!

  • VMR

    Nice look at the D. I'm not sure they'll be able to move Souray this offseason after the injuries this season, if he plays well we might be able to dump him at next seasons deadline but that might be a long shot.

    Definitely need to keep Johnson and give him more of a look, he's been solid, and I think Peckham has a good hold on a spot. His penalty minutes will drop in a few seasons, I remember Matt Greene having the same problem when he broke in, look at a guy the wrong way and he'd get a penalty.

    I dont think Chorney has earned a spot yet, at all, and I think that keeps Strudwick on the payroll as a 6-7 guy for at least one more season. He's getting way too much icetime right now but he's servicable in that fill in role.