I have to admit that I get my nose a little bit out of joint when people start talking about how ‘soft’ Tom Gilbert is. I realize that he’s a 6’4” finesse defenceman who writes funny things in his blog over at the Oilers’ official site, but I think there is at least one item that should throw the ‘soft’ description out the window.
That item is shot-blocking.
In 2010-11, Tom Gilbert (pictured above) has blocked 156 shots (on pace for 188). There are a few ways to look at that total. It is…
- 43 more blocks than the Oilers second-ranked player, Theo Peckham
- The fourth highest total in the entire NHL
- 78 times as many blocks as tough guy Steve MacIntyre has
- An indication that Tom Gilbert isn’t a good enough skater to get out of the way of the puck.
In 2009-10, Tom Gilbert (pictured above along with friends watching a playoff game) blocked 165 shots. Once again, there are a few ways to look at that number. It is…
- 26 more blocks than second-ranked Jason Strudwick, and 74 more than the next closest player.
- The 10th highest total in the entire NHL
- More than five times as many as Sheldon Souray, who at that point in time still had his name mentioned by fans in the same sentence as ‘next captain of the team.’
- Proof that Tom Gilbert is a turnover machine; if he didn’t turn the puck over so many times people wouldn’t shoot it at him so often.
In 2008-09, Tom Gilbert (pictured above, unsuccessfully hawking bicycle tires) blocked 136 shots. As usual, there are a few different comparisons we might make with that number. It is…
- The second-highest total on the team, 21 back of Steve Staios and 49 more than the next closest player.
- The 32nd highest total in the NHL.
- Twice as many as half the defencemen on the team (Souray, Smid, and Strudwick) managed.
- A number that just goes to show how strange professional athletes are – here’s a guy who lives in abject terror of contact with a hockey player on the other team, but likes getting hit by a vulcanized rubber disc moving at incredible speed.
In 2007-08, Tom Gilbert (pictured above, with BFF Robert Nilsson) blocked 159 shots. Once again, there is more than one perspective on that total. It is…
- The second-highest total on the team, 28 back of Steve Staios and 64 more than the next closest Oiler.
- The 11th highest total in the league.
- More than the 14 lowest-ranked Oilers combined.
- Further proof of the poor quality of Tom Gilbert’s hockey sense – we know he can’t be doing it deliberately, because he’s so soft, so he must just be dumb.
In 326 games split over four full NHL seasons and a 12-game call-up in 2006-07, Tom Gilbert has put his body in front of a puck speeding at his own net a grand total of 636 times. Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of consistent, game-in and game-out commitment to sacrificing his body to block shots means that I’d be hesitant to use the word ‘soft’ as my principle standby for describing his play.
Is Gilbert a physical defenceman? No. But words like soft, weak, timid, and afraid are not ones I would use to describe him. I don’t think they fit the available data.