Speaking of bogus Rolex watches and phoney Gucci luggage before the Edmonton Oilers took an 8-2 spanking from the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden today, that’s exactly what Tom Gilbert was on this last road trip. Luggage, that is.
With one win, a 2-1 decision over the Chicago Blackhawks last Sunday, on a five-game swing, a lot of players on Tom Renney’s roster had lousy trips. None more so that Gilbert, who has seldom turned in as lame a stretch of hockey as an NHL player.
Sunday’s dismal performance by Gilbert, one in which he stood around a lot, coughed up the puck just about as much and went minus-4, put an exclamation mark on a trip that saw him score 0-0-0 and go minus-10.
Not very stellar stuff from Gilbert, who is the Oilers highest-paid defenceman at $5.5 million this season (his cap hit is $4 million). The way I see it, he hasn’t looked anything like a lot of people expected he would on a blue line that isn’t nearly good enough as he approaches 300 NHL games on the learning curve.
Gucci luggage or the fake stuff?
I’m sure there’s a set of numbers that suggests Gilbert hasn’t been as bad as he’s looked — I expect those who called his contract a bargain when he signed it are calculating them now. Then again, finding numbers worse than he’s appeared to the naked eye might be difficult.
And let’s get a couple of things out of the way right now. First, Gilbert wasn’t the only guy who had a brutal trip. Andrew Cogliano rolled zeros for the boxcars and was a minus-8. Likewise Gilbert Brule, with the exact same numbers across the board. Play-of-the-game highlight reel Nikolai Khabibulin allowed 19 goals in four starts.
Second, anybody with two eyes in their head can see the Oilers blue line isn’t close to being good enough. Gilbert isn’t alone. Still, he’s not a raw kid like Theo Peckham. He’s not a past-his-prime veteran hanging onto a roster spot like Jason Strudwick. He’s not adjusting to all-new teammates and playing in the aftermath of a tragic summer like Kurtis Foster.
Aren’t we, without jumping to conclusions, supposed to be entering prime time with Gilbert, who is 27 years old, had people talking with 45 points in 2008-09 and is in his fifth NHL season?
AS GOOD AS IT GETS?
Through 16 games, Gilbert has scored 2-1-3 with 16 penalty minutes and is minus-8 after starting the trip on the right side of even. It’s the second year in a row Gilbert has struggled mightily out of the gates. He got very little done before getting rolling late last season, especially after Ryan Whitney arrived.
Having been wrong, wrong, wrong, and embarrassingly so on several players in my years as a writer, you tend to shake your head when a player you thought was the real deal falls well short of expectations.
I’m curious to know what those people who were sure Gilbert was going to be worth every penny of that new contract and a lock as a first-pairing defenceman after that 45-point year are thinking now. What is Gilbert’s top end? Is this, even allowing for the holes with this defensive corps, as good as it gets?
We know Gilbert isn’t a punishing physical presence. The argument has been that being a big hitter isn’t necessary, and there are certainly lots of examples of that. Besides, if Gilbert is moving the puck and putting up 50 points a season, what’s not to like? Fair argument.
I stated here more than once 45 points was a one-off, that Gilbert wouldn’t better that total the rest of his career (then contradicted myself like a dough head by picking him to get 46 points in the Lucky 13 pool). Will we see that player again, or is Gilbert destined to settle into being a no-hit guy who gets 30-35 points and blocks some shots?
I ask again: Gucci luggage, or the fake stuff?
— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.