Gilbert Top Rookie D under MacT Regime

Tom Gilbert had an outstanding rookie season for the Edmonton Oilers. He is the best all-around rookie defender Edmonton has seen since Craig MacTavish took over in fall 2000. Gilbert faded as the season wore on but by any measure he’s been the cream of the crop since the turn of the century.

Here’s a list of Oilers rookie defenders and their TOI in those seasons:

  1. Tom Gilbert (07-08) 1820minutes
  2. Ladislav Smid (06-07) 1481minutes
  3. MA Bergeron (03-04) 953minutes
  4. Alexei Semenov (02-03) 905minutes
  5. Jan Hejda (06-07) 795minutes
  6. Matt Greene (05-06) 303minutes
  7. Danny Syvret (06-07) 295minutes
  8. Mathieu Roy (06-07) 225minutes
  9. Bryan Young (06-07) 151minutes
  10. Ales Pisa (01-02) 30minutes
  11. Sebastien Bisaillon (06-07) 28minutes
  12. Doug Lynch (03-04) 20minutes
  13. Theo Peckham (07-08) 13 minutes
  14. Chris Hajt (00-01) 7minutes
  15. Bobby Allen (02-03) 3minutes

There’s been a tremendous spike in minutes played by Oiler rookies on D over the past two seasons, a trend that should change in the upcoming season:

  • 00-01: 7 (Chris Hajt only rookie)
  • 01-02: 30 (Pisa only rookie)
  • 02-03: 991 (Semenov top rookie)
  • 03-04: 973 (Bergeron top rookie)
  • 05-06: 439 (Greene top rookie)
  • 06-07: 3,217 (Smid top rookie)
  • 07-08: 1,972 (Gilbert top rookie)

Candidates for playing time in 08-09 among Oiler defenders who are still considered rookies are Theo Peckham, Sebastien Bisallion, Taylor Chorney and Bryan Young.

One final note: Although Gilbert is a quality asset, the Oilers let one get away last summer in Jan Hejda. The scouting department got it right with this fellow and Kevin Lowe was able to acquire him at a nice price. The Oilers lost Hejda to Columbus and he had a top flight season, good enough to earn him a long term contract earlier this week.

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29 Responses to "Gilbert Top Rookie D under MacT Regime"

  1. PunjabiOil says:

    He’s put up numbers everywhere he went, but a 25 year old who played 12 games last season, just doesn’t seem like a true rookie.

  2. doritogrande says:

    Cody Wild’s got a shot at getting minutes next season also.

  3. Bruce says:

    He’s put up numbers everywhere he went, but a 25 year old who played 12 games last season, just doesn’t seem like a true rookie.

    Yeah, this is where the NHL “rookie” classification gets a little murky. e.g. Matt Greene played 27 games in his cup o’ coffee in ’05-06, just over the threshold of 25 GP, so he was no longer considered a rookie in ’06-07 when he played some 1,373 minutes. 3 fewer games the year before, and Greene would be third on the TOI list.

    Whereas because Gilbert’s cup o’ coffee was restricted to just 12 games in ’06-07 due to injury, that experience didn’t affect his rookie status this past year. If he makes the All-Rookie Team (a distinct possibility) he can probably thank Jody Shelley.

  4. Dennis says:

    The Oilers essentially chose Greene over Hejda; I’ll always believe that.

    If there was a REAL media in Edm, they’d be screaming blue murder over this one. Hejda costs an extra 950K more than Greene, and feel free to throw Smid into the pile of guys who should’ve been moved or let go before Jan, but he’s a bonafide tough min guy and he got his big three year deal and he’s better than Greene is and just might be more valuable then Greene ever will be.

    Like I said, in a town with real media, this might get a mention.

  5. Dennis says:

    Just wanted to add, it makes me want to cromit, that’s a combination of cry and vomit, when I look at Jan’s Desjardin numbers.

    To think we had this guy and just let him walk for nothing. It’s like giving away Brian Giles; only we didn’t even get back Ricardo Rincon in return;)

    And I mean it’s not like Hejda had a pretty face but was fat and lost the weight once he went to Columbus either;)

    So, for the all the guys who trumpet the Gilbert move as another case of Lowe’s ability to sniff out D, let’s remember there were three guys on the table and one of the other’s was the Yotes Ballard so by that time Pierre Lacroix was so used to making deadline deals for depth that:

    - he was throwing away prospects
    - he had no idea what guys were worth.

    And yeah Lowe picked up on Grebs but he fucked the Hejda deal BIG time.

  6. Ducey says:


    A little 20/20 hindsight?

    Hejda had 9 points in 36 games and a minus 6 in his time with Oil. Buffalo gave him up for a 7th rounder. He was hardly Larry Robinson or Chris Pronger. Columbus (or any other team) didn’t exactly run out and sign him longterm either.

    He has turned out to be an under rated guy. I agree that he is a bonus for CBJ.

    However, he is 29 and with Lowe looking at rebuild last year, its not surprising he picked young guys like Greene or Smid over Hedja. I would have to. I still think Smid at 26 to 29 is going to be better than Hejda ever will. Greene might be too.

  7. Ribs says:

    I still don’t understand the hard-ons for Hejda.

    He was a decent player but he was directly responsible for a bunch of game deciding goals before the Smyth trade.
    It was the same bad decisions time and time again. I think it was an easy choice for MacT (if he had the choice) to try the kids over Hejda.

    But hey, I’d take him over Greene in an instant, myself.

  8. Bruce says:

    I’m in the middle on this one. I sure liked what I saw out of Hejda last year, he and J.Smith formed a real effective pairing for 20-30 games; it seemed like when the Hejda-Gator pair was out there we were never in any trouble. It could be argued Hejda’s season-ending injury in early March was part of the chain of events that led to the core collapse down the stretch.

    OTOH, the argument could also be advanced that because he missed the worst part of the season (if not in the history of the Oilers) his stats didn’t suffer the way others’ did. In a tiny sample size after the Smyth trade which undeniably triggered the crash, Hejda’s stats of 4 GP, 0-0-0, -3 hardly suggest he was the guy who would have stemmed the tide. There’s not much doubt he would have helped, but he missed a chance to prove himself indispensable.

    I was disappointed when Hejda walked soon after July 1, but hardly crushed. For all we knew then, he was Ales Pisa. He did go on to have a fine year with CBJ, leading the team with 148 hits and a remarkable +20 rating (sharply split +21 at home, -1 on the road). Part of it was opportunity; CBJ had three defencemen over 1700 minutes and nobody else even at 1000. Not sure the same scenario would’ve developed here, where even without him we started the season with “9 NHL defencemen”. Same thing got in his way in ’06-07, and may have factored in his decision to accept Howson’s offer.

  9. Lowetide says:

    The Oilers were slow to recognize his talent, I believe we could google a MacT quote where he said something along those line.

    I’m not certain Lowe would be the only culprit in this play to be honest, it seems to me MacT would have had some kind of input into the decision.

    iirc the Oilers wanted Hejda to wait awhile before they would commit to him and Howson came along with something in ink and that was all she wrote.

    Poor decision based on the math imo, but I’m not prepared to light Lowe on fire on this issue.

  10. GSC says:


    Bang on. It’s time the media started holding Lowe responsible for some of the decisions he’s made. It’s as if the infamous Stoll2Hemsky on HFBoards was running the Oiler spin zone in the papers and on radio.

  11. Dennis says:

    LT: You know I love you;) but with all due respect, you weren’t prepared to light Lowe on fire for the Pronger package, either;) So, I doubt it’s the Hejda hill you’re prepared to let Lowe die on:)

    Some comments from an article I found about Hejda’s re-signing:

    ////Hejda waited to re-sign with the Edmonton Oilers after last season in hopes of getting a bigger contract offer. But when free agency opened, he nearly got left out in the cold.

    “You trust a player when you know he can play against the other teams’ best players every night,” Hitchcock said. “He fits in well with what we’re trying to do here.”

    In 81 games, Hejda had no goals and 13 assists. The number that opened a lot of eyes, however, was his plus-20 rating — tied for 10th best in the NHL — on a club that allowed 20 more goals than it scored this season.

    “Jan showed us that he can play against top players,” Howson said. “He’s a big part of the penalty kill, too.

    “We liked the way he played with Adam Foote. We expected there would be a drop-off when Foote was traded (in late February), but when he paired with Rusty Klesla late in the season, his game took off in the other direction.”.///

    Ducey and GSC: I think that there’s just a tad bit of Hockeysfuturization going on here. Not everyone one of the kids is going to turn out and when Ducey says something like:

    I still think Smid at 26 to 29 is going to be better than Hejda ever will. Greene might be too

    I mean, where do I even start with that? Perhaps I should just start with how much money do you think they’ll be making by the time EITHER of those guys can go at +15 in terms of real plus/minus while playing against the other team’s top lines?

    I mean, seriously, c’mon, Ducey.

    And this isn’t revisionist history on my behalf because while I started out disliking the early returns on 25, I was a huge fan of his by the end of the season. Him and 21 were playing tough min on a terrible club and both guys needed to be paired with a puckmover but they still weren’t getting murdered in their role. I spent a few posts last season between April and July saying I’d keep Hejda and deal off Greene so it’s not like I’m looking at the stats now and saying I liked him all along.

    Fact of the matter is the Oilers would be a lot better off if they could build a true top pairing around a guy only making two mill. I don’t understand why everyone can’t agree with this.

    And Hejda showed enough last year that we’re not talking about hiring a guy blind, either. Fuck, how much more did the Oilers pay Roy than the Jackets paid Hejda.

    Give me a fucking break and give me something other than passing the buck from Lowe back to MacT which is what happens on every move since we heard whispers that MacT has input into the personnel moves.

    In any case, Someone fucked up. Hejda’s making two mill a year to excel playing tough min and some guys are still going HF and hoping Greene and Smid will turn into anything but bottom sixers.

  12. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I liked the Pronger package!!!! Seriously though, it seems to me that you’re missing the mark a little on Hejda with regard to MacT’s role in it.

    If I say “MacT probably didn’t like him enough to push for immediate signing” is that any more of a stretch than “Lowe fucked the Hejda deal big time!” sounds?

  13. Dennis says:

    LT: you know what, I don’t think we made a big deal of this but does anyone else remember when MacT said he was surprised by how effective Souray was? Does that sound like a guy who had a lot of input into acquistions? MacT was surprised by Souray’s abbreviated ’08 season.

    So that means that he didn’t think much of him in the first place.

  14. Steve says:

    I think the Souray signing was exceptional in that it was pretty obviously a PR decision, rather than a hockey one. You wouldn’t expect MacT to have much say in PR decisions.

  15. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I really think you’re arguing black and white here and it’s probably a shade of grey. I understand your rage re:Lowe and the protectionism of the EDM media but imo there’s room here for a good debate about just how much sway the coach has when it comes to roster makeup.

    I do remember the MacT quote on Souray and that’s certainly a point in favor of your argument but it just seems to me that there is some room for argument on the subject.

  16. Ducey says:


    Agreed, Hejda is a good deal for CBJ. He would also have been a good deal for the Oilers – in retrospect.

    Quoting Hitchcock this spring doesn’t mean any of this was likely a year ago.

    Maybe you should be GM (although you would have to lose the swearing during press conferences) :-). But saying he was better than Greene is a tad different than saying he was a top pair guy. You were really saying that he would fill a bottom 6 role better than Smid or Greene.

    I am saying that if I am GM, I am looking to the future (especially after 2006) and trying to develop some guys for a cup run. Smid IS going to be better than Hejda. If you have to choose, you develop the higher end guy.

    I just find it hard to get all over Lowe because he picked one bottom 6 guy over another. Sure Hejda turned out to be more (at least for a year) but I don’t think even you saw that coming – why else were you not this worked up then?

  17. Ducey says:

    One other thing. And I don’t know about this but I’ll throw it out there. Hejda now plays for a defence first team (trap team). Is it possible that he would not have done so well had he been playing in Edmonton where players are actually allowed to try to score?

  18. Dennis says:

    Ducey: I WAS worked up at the time, trust me.

    And Smid will never have a season playing tough min like Hejda just posted. And by never I mean highly, highly unlikely.

    LT: everything’s grey when it comes to Lowe’s decisions.

  19. Coach pb9617 says:

    And Smid will never have a season playing tough min like Hejda just posted.

    This is just silly.

  20. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: There’s several Lowe decisions that are clearly wonky. The Souray deal, the Penner deal, others.

    I think they felt Hejda was a back-of-the-roster Dman even after his impressive season here and had guys like Greene and Smid above him on the depth chart.

    Mistake? Yes. Lowe’s mistake? Yes. MacT’s mistake? Yes.

  21. Dennis says:

    Coach: why is that silly? Smid’s not going to be that good just because a bunch of fellows Want him to be that good.

    LT: Nah, that’s the new thing: Lowe’s mistakes are no longer his mistakes alone because MacT had input on personnel decisions. In fact, if you dig deep enough, I’ll bet he’s also the one who makes Laforge come across like a tool. Fuck, he might’ve also caused snow to fall in late April!

  22. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: So it’s your way of thinking or we’re all dummies?

  23. Oilman says:

    There’s this guy on Headline Sports Radio in the afternoons that throws out the word “shit” as many times as he possibly can – now, the guy doesn’t really seem to have two clues if you listen to him long enough, but it’s tough to get that far because you keep focusing on the amount of “shits” he can throw into one sentence. To me, it’s just a stupid thing to do – satellite radio or not – I really don’t care if you throw “shit” into your argument. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, or tougher, or more street wise, or whatever. It’s purpose is generally useless – and it comes off as overdone and insincere – it’s used just because he’s on a forum that allows it…… see what I’m getting at dennis?

  24. Dennis says:

    LT: I’m nothing if not a man of conviction so I don’t apologize for that:) There are things that you won’t budge on either and maybe you’re not as fervent in your stance but it’s still there.

    Seriously, though, I just can’t pass everything off as a defense of Lowe and this comes from a guy that doesn’t mind giving praise when the guy hits ‘em out of the park, ie Hejda and Glencross for instance considering they’re the topics of jour. On the other end, Smid’s played a year in the A and two in the league so he’s far from a waste case but how many more GP have to roll past before you give in that was a bad move? You know, I hated Carter/Dvorak years ago but I came around on that so I’m not saying I know everything but I do know some things. As do you:)

    And I was giving a little bit of creedance to MacT having say in the personnel but when I saw his comments on Souray, that changed things for me.

    OM: I can assure you it’s not me being insincere:) I like HBO and US Cable TV Because they allow swearing and nudity; basically real life when you think about it.

    And it’s all dust in the wind if you’re bothered by me swearing or would like me to change it. That’s the nicest way for me to put it.

  25. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I hear you, stubborn is good (it better be or I’ve wasted half my life). :-)

    Smid I’m not close to giving up on, so we’re not going to agree on him forever. He’s got some ways to go and I can certainly agree he’ll never step over the payment that got him here but that’s not his to ask forgiveness over. I think Smid will have a nice career and spend the heart of it in the top 4 on an NHL team.

    As for Lowe’s errors, they’re all over the place. And really, when I say “MacT was involved” that’s really splitting hairs and Lowe’s the GM so that’s where the buck stops.

    But I do feel a sense of “let’s move on or we’re never going to get over this” which is what I could never do over the Messier trade.

  26. Oilman says:

    Dennis – don’t get me wrong – I don’t care what you write. You missed my point entirely. I’m saying that sometimes the delivery or the message distracts from the content….if my doctor told me “fuck, as far as your tests go, you’re fuckin fine ya know. Fucked if I know what’s causing your pain. It’s fucking weird”…I don’t know what I would take out of that – throw in a thick newfie accent to boot and I may never go back:o) It’s distracting – no matter how smart the fucker is!

  27. Dennis says:

    I don’t mind admitting that the thing that really drives me nuts is the free pass Lowe gets and how it has to do with what he did as a PLAYER.

  28. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I think that is part of it, along with the community involvement and the Stanley run in 2006. I think he’ll hsve a “Beliveau run” in the Oilers organization, eventually becoming an icon (if he isn’t already).

    Should the Oilers win a Cup with him in charge he’ll write his own ticket all down the line imo.

  29. Dennis says:

    The fact that there’s a pretty much gutless media has a lot do with it, LT.

    Van Wilder Stauffer’s got ‘guts’ to spare;) but he likes to pick on MacT instead of Lowe so he’s no good to any of us with a discerning eye.

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