The native of Bloomington, Minnesota, played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin from 2002 to 2006 after the Colorado Avalanche drafted him 129th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. But he never played for the Avs as In March of 2004, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. Then, after a single season in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Gilbert graduated to the NHL with the Oilers, playing 12 games in 2006-07, notching 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points. Did you know that Gilbert was a forward in high school before he made the switch to defense?
The lanky defenseman then spent the next five seasons with the Oilers, averaging 80 games with 7 goals and 26 assists for 33 points. Gilbert had his best season in 2008-09 when he recorded 5 goals and 40 helpers for 45 points in 82 games to go along with a +6 +/- rating. Gilbert was then traded to the Minnesota Wild where he played for 1 1/2 season before signing with the Panthers prior to last season.
Despite his imposing frame, Gilbert is not a very physical defenseman as shown by his 59 hits in 73 contests last season. His 95 blocked shots ranked him second among Panthers players last season, but that number would have ranked him seventh among Canadiens players last year. The Canadiens seem to emphasize much more on shot blocking that the Panthers, which explains the big gap between the two teams in that category.
The puck-moving Gilbert will help with the Habs' transition game on the second pairing and allow Andrei Markov to move up alongside PK Subban on the team's first pairing, which should log around 25 minutes of ice time per game all season long (barring any serious injury). The arrival of Gilbert, combined with the revelation that was Mike Weaver (also a former Panther), allowed Marc Bergevin to trade Josh Gorges and his bloated salary ($3.9M/year). The move will also allow the organization to groom youngsters Jarred
Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu on the team's third pairing alongside the defensively-reliable Weaver.
Moreover, last season, the Campbell/Gilbert pairing has been one of the NHL’s very best, with the Panthers posting a Corsi% north of 55% when the two of them were on the ice, which is considered elite by advanced stats expert Tyler Dellow. Despite this excellent statistic during his whole career even with the Oilers, when Gilbert became a free agent after being bought out by the Wild, he boasted a pretty lengthy track record of outperforming his team’s Corsi% while playing top four (and most of the time top two) minutes for his team.
Last year was a rebound season for Gilbert after he struggled mightily with the Wild in 2012-13 because of a pneumonia he suffered before the season that hampered his play all season, leading him to be frequently scratched by Minnesota and appearing in only 43 games.Still, there is every indication that Gilbert will prove to be a valuable player for the Habs as he is a right-handed shot on a team without much right-handed defensive depth. Did you know that Gilbert was 42nd in the NHL in points at the time of his season-ending injury? Subban finished 5th with 53 points while Markov finished 17th with 43 points.
Finally, do you like Tom Gilbert's signing or would you rather have kept Josh Gorges around until the end of his long contract?