All things being equal, which they very seldom are, when it comes to assessing players, I’ve always preferred guys with a high degree of bite and physical edge to their game over those who don’t provide the same blood-and-guts dimensions. “Softer” players, if you will, although that word tends to send some observers into a tizzy.

That said, I’m slotting Tom Gilbert, who definitely falls into the category of brains over brawn, a spot higher on my Top 100 list than Steve Staios, who never possessed Gilbert’s talent – thus, the all things being equal caveat doesn’t apply – but would fight to the death for every inch of ice, every loose puck. There is, after all, more than one way to get the job done. Gilbert proved that in the 384 games he played over six seasons with the Oilers.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tom Gilbert

Defense — shoots R

Born Jan 10 1983 — Bloomington, MN 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Height 6.02 — Weight 202 [188 cm/92 kg]

Drafted by Colorado Avalanche

Round 4 #129 overall 


Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- Playoff GP G A Pts PIM
2006-07 Edmonton Oilers NHL 12 1 5 6 0 -1
2007-08 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 13 20 33 20 -6
2008-09 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 5 40 45 26 6
2009-10 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 5 26 31 16 -10
2010-11 Edmonton Oilers NHL 79 6 20 26 32 -14
2011-12 Edmonton Oilers NHL 47 3 14 17 12 -3
2011-12 Minnesota Wild NHL 20 0 5 5 8 -5
2012-13 Minnesota Wild NHL 43 3 10 13 18 -11 5 0 0 0 2
2013-14 Florida Panthers NHL 73 3 25 28 18 -5
2014-15 Montreal Canadiens NHL 72 4 8 12 30 10 12 2 3 5 14
2015-16 Montreal Canadiens NHL 45 1 1 2 12 3
NHL Totals 637 44 174 218 192 17 2 3 5 16


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I wasn’t a big fan of how Gilbert approached the game during his time with the Oilers. He was one of those players, like Tom Poti, who never used his size to his advantage. He preferred to get in the way as opposed to banging bodies and imposing his physical will on opponents in the corners and in front of the net. Like Poti, Gilbert just wasn’t wired that way. 

I always thought Gilbert could’ve been more than he was had he possessed even a modest amount of the nasty dimensions players like Sheldon Souray or Boris Mironov did – they not only moved the puck and produced points but would happily knock your teeth out – but it wasn’t to be. Even so, it would be unfair not to appreciate what Gilbert did bring to the table.

Gilbert played the best hockey of his NHL career during a three-year stretch in which he put up 33, 45 and 31 points with the Oilers. The 33 points came in his second season. The 45-point campaign (2008-09) came in his third and had some people projecting a ceiling much higher than he ever attained again. Gilbert’s best season since his 31 points in 2009-10 came with Florida in 2013-14, when he had 28 points.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Gilbert was sheltered in his first three seasons here. In 2008-09, he was playing 21:58 per game. Souray was here, so was Lubomir Visnovsky. By 2010-11, Gilbert was playing 24:30 and was in over his head. Souray and Visnovsky were gone. Gilbert and Ryan Whitney were the go-to guys on a back end laden with journeymen trying to full holes.

Simply put, when Gilbert’s ice time increased his offensive production decreased. Without that dimension of physicality and with his production falling off, there was, shall we say, less appreciation for the subtleties of Gilbert’s game as a 20-something-point guy than there was when fans thought he’d develop into a player who’d regularly get 40 points.

Gilbert was 29 and something of a whipping boy when the Oilers shipped him to the Minnesota Wild for Nick Schultz, a solid defender who contributed next-to-nothing offensively. It seemed an odd move, given the make-up of the blue line at the time. Had Gilbert offered any physical bang for the buck, he would have been higher on my list, but his best three seasons here still gets him a spot.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  • Seanaconda

    They should do another oilers cribs special like they had with Gilbert cogs and gagners house. It looked like Gilbert basically took care of the other two I’m pretty sure gags managed to hang a picture that hung like a foot into the walkway in his room.

      • Oates didn’t make it. He was one of 12-15 guys I wrestled with in the bottom 10 who were really good players who made their mark elsewhere but weren’t here very long — Oates, Samsonov, Nedved etc.

        Adam was terrific with the team’s young centres here.

  • Morgo_82

    he’s 6’3″ and played like he was 5’9″, his talent didn’t make up for how soft he was. I didn’t expect him to fight or throw huge hits but I’ve never seen anyone shy away from physical contact like he did.

  • @Hallsy4

    Gilbert and Petry were instrumental pieces in the endless rebuild, which brought us to our Savior Connor. Lets hope This is only the Beginning for Montreal.

  • The Goalie 1976

    This is the same issue I have with all ‘american college sytle’ defenseman, (Poti, Petry, Gilbert, Schultz, ect)

    I’ll even throw in Marincin, as he is the same player type.

    If you are not willing to engage in the physical battles, as none of the above players were, then you had better be elite offensively (Karlsson) or at min be a powerplay weapon (M.A. Bergeron ) otherwise you cant really help the team. All the above players were only marginal offensive contributors, at best, and never contribute enough offense to offset the huge lack of battle and defense.

    I’ll generally pass on these player types all-together, as I don’t think you can win with more than 1 of them in your top 6. The Oilers have been trying to either feature or hide 3 to 4 of these types every year, and I for one am relieved the PC builds a team to win both physically and with skill.

  • cityofchampions

    There is nothing wrong with having one of these types of players, most teams do. The reason they fail so bad with the Oilers is that they are not given the support they need….a rock-solid defensive partner and a spot on the second/third pairing. Building around players such as the Oilers have been doing, giving them tough first-line minutes, just exposes their flaws and have them playing to their weakness. Having one or two such players on your team as a complementary players is just fine, if you have the depth and supporting personnel. Petry is fine in Montreal as a second-liner, Schultz ok as a third-liner in Pittsburg. Being forced to play them as a first-pair defencemen due to lack of depth is not so much on the player, but on the Oilers management.

  • 24_McClelland

    Is this the top 100 Oilers, or just the first 100 Oilers you can think of off the top of your head? I just don’t think players that disappointed and made you want more for most of their tenure as an Edmonton Oiler should make such a list.

    If guys like Gilbert make a top 100 list, should trim that list down to 50.