Gilbert had a big game last night, throwing a couple heavy hits, but it wasn’t his only big game of the year. The running joke of “that couldn’t have been Tom Gilbert throwing that hit” is now getting old, as we see him do it more and more. As usual, he and Smid made it difficult on their opponents. I didn’t think I’d see the day that Gilbert figured the physical part of his game out, but he seems to have on a consistent basis, and I’m really impressed. He’s worth his $4m/year now as he’s playing a complete game rather than looking like a guy forced into his role.
And before the “I told you so”s come out, he hasn’t always played like that. The last two years were difficult to watch. I call it like I see it and give credit where/when it is due. The first two years, I really liked his game and was a big supporter of his (from an offensive standpoint more than anything). The next two years, I was pretty disappointed in him. I wanted to see him do better for his own sake and the sake of the team, but I just was not impressed and found it difficult to defend him from the Oil fans out there and soon became one of those fans, unimpressed by his game.
This year he’s managed to keep his offensive game reasonably intact while adding new components to it – smarter defensive play, and finally using his size. See Tom? It wasn’t that hard. I believe Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid to be a #1 pairing, capable of shutting down opponents while being able to generate some offense too. This team would not be where they were without these two (in addition to “The Nuge” and Khabibulin). Before the start of the year, who would have thought we’d be saying that at this time?