That would be admitting I was wrong about a player. Well, partially. I was wrong in wanting to see Tom Gilbert traded because he was playing piss poor in the defensive zone. But he’s won me over again lately (mostly due to elevating the part of his game I already liked).
Those of you that have followed what I say long enough know that I was a big Tom Gilbert fan in his first year, and we had a bit of a falling out in recent times (hah). That has had a lot to do with his defensive play in the past, more so than his offensive play. I’ve always felt like he’s been solid in the offensive zone. I still am a bit unsure about his defensive and physical abilities. However, it would appear that Whitney balances that load quite well. Lately I’ve seen Gilbert playing more of a 4th forward role, and making some pretty gorgeous breakout passes. I think his elevated play has a lot to do with confidence – confidence which came in playing with a solid defensive partner. That is something that didn’t exist much before, especially when paired with Grebeshkov.
Anyways, Steve-O will be in his glory over this post, and will be full of “I told you so’s” as he has been advocating patience with Gilbert for 2 years now. Good on you for appearing to get that one right. But really, I think there are parallels between Gilbert and Penner. Both were in the doghouse with many people the past couple of years. They showed the potential to be good, but just weren’t getting it done. They got out of it by elevating their game back to where it should be. Anyways, the Edmonton Sun has a good article on the pairing of Whitney/Gilbert today, including some good bro-love shown by Whitney to Gilbert. Here is my favorite quote from the article:
I knew Tom was a good player, but he’s so smart with the puck. I’ve never seen a guy make so many good passes. I thought one of the strengths of my game was breakout passes, but that’s something he’s unbelievable at. He’s a guy that can have someone draped all over him and still be able to hit a guy at centre with a small spot to aim at. It helps create lot of odd-man rushes for us. He’s a very good NHL defenceman and I know it’s been a tough year for everyone around here, but I’m really looking forward to playing with him all year next year, he’s a really good player.
Now if you’re right about Nilsson and Pouliot, Steve-O, I’ll eat crow. My question now though is, how expendible is Souray now that we have Whitney here? Would you hang on to Souray for a 2nd pairing? I’ve always liked the guy, but there is no arguing (at least right now) that Whitney and Gilbert deserve the top minutes.