After A Strong Start, Tom Gilbert’s Career Never Materialized As Hoped

Posted February 15, 2017

For a team with the best record in the entire league, it may be hard to pinpoint a true weakness that needs to be addressed on the roster. To get to that point in the standings, it takes a solid roster from the top all the way to the bottom.

Looking for a weakness on a team like the Washington Capitals, at this current point in the season, could border nitpicking.

Standing at 84 points currently, four more than the second place and seven from the nearest Eastern conference team, the Capitals are starting to build a little bit of a cushion on their way to possibly another President’s Trophy.

General Manager Brian MacLellan took a stab at boosting the team, though, acquiring defenseman Tom Gilbert from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional draft pick.

A former fourth-round pick by the Colorado Avalanche, Gilbert hit the NHL and quickly established himself as a point-producing defenseman. His first full season in the league saw him post 33 points (13 G, 20 A). His second season, he finished in the top ten in assists by a defenseman with 40 (45 points overall).

It’s been tough sledding for Gilbert since then, as he was later traded to the Minnesota Wild for Nick Schultz. He was eventually a victim of a compliance buyout, which allowed teams to get out of any contract without facing cap penalties after the new CBA was signed.

A camp tryout with the Florida Panthers led to a contract offer. In his one year with the Panthers, he had his best season since his time in Edmonton, registering 28 points in 73 games played. That helped him secure a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, serving out the entirety of his contract, and eventually ended up with Los Angeles this season.

Gilbert has split this season between the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL), playing 18 games with the Kings and five with Ontario.

A look at just how promising Gilbert’s career starting out as, before taking a steep crash course downwards, at least on the offensive side.

Category First 2 Years Since
Corsi For% 47.76% 48.41%
Shots For per 60 30.81 29.32
On-Ice Shooting% 9.49 7.56
Expected Goals For per 60 2.71 2.48
Expected Goals Against per 60 2.75 2.55
Scoring Chances For per 60 9.31 7.97
Team Goals For per 60 2.96 2.26
Goals per 60 0.31 0.12
Assists per 60 0.79 0.59
Points per 60 1.10 0.70

His early years were spent with a fading Edmonton Oilers team that took about the same downward spiral that Gilbert did after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. He saw everything offensively wise take a dip, and while some of his defensive metrics (not pictured) did even out, that was mostly due to playing on better teams later in his career than anything.

After a promising start to his career, where it looked like he can be a great point-producer, Gilbert has tailed off into nothing really more than a depth defender, and will likely serve in that role with the Capitals.

How He Fits Into Capitals Organization

With a top four set into stone and the surprising success of the bottom pair of Brooks Orpik and Nate Schmidt, Gilbert has been assigned to the Hershey Bears, giving him an opportunity to get some minutes in.

As the season pushes along, though, they could opt for the right-handed shooting Gilbert to be the seventh option, as opposed to the current selection of Taylor Chorney.

When it comes to the seventh defenseman, they are going to be almost interchangeable, which is the case with Chorney and Gilbert.


Tom Gilbert Category Taylor Chorney
51.27% Corsi-For% 47.06%
28.90 Shots-For per 60 28.71
27.35 Shots-Against per 60 33.25
2.86% On-Ice Shooting% 10.39%
93.75% On Ice Save% 96.26
2.17 Expected Goals For per 60 2.36
2.24 Expected Goals Against per 60 2.94
5.54 Scoring Chances For per 60 6.59
6.93 Scoring Chances Against per 60 5.78
0.80 Goals For per 60 2.80
1.80 Goals Against per 60 1.37

All stats are adjusted for score, zone, and venue based on 5v5 play on Corsica.Hockey.

Chorney does have the advantage, slightly, but he has the advantage on playing on the best team in hockey where Gilbert’s limited time in the NHL has been for a struggling to score Kings’ team that is fighting for their playoff lives.

The Kings are 22nd in goals per game but have always been a good puck possession team, with Gilbert’s numbers representing that. Gilbert has been a far better-shot suppressor, but again, the Kings as a whole have put up elite numbers in that category for years now.

When it comes to scoring, Gilbert has put up two more compared to Chorney, with the latter also playing in one less game. In 15 games this season, Gilbert has registered five points (G, 4 A) to Chorney’s three (G, 2 A).

In the end, Chorney has only played in a quarter of the Capitals’ games. Even if they swapped out Chorney for Gilbert at some point, the seventh defenseman is so underutilized that the numbers almost won’t matter.

For now, Gilbert adds depth to an already strong Hershey blue line and gives the Capitals a player with over 600 NHL games waiting in the wings for an opportunity.