a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

02/28/12 Understanding the Gilbert Trade

The Oilers followed up a solid re-signing of Ales Hemsky with a much less popular move on trade deadline day. The return for Gilbert, Nick Schultz, is a solid defender in his own right; but does he make the Oilers better?

The Skinny:

Schultz: 743 NHL games, 26-102-128, plus-8; 0.17 points per game; born August 25th 1982, age 29
Gilbert: 384 NHL games, 33-125-158, minus-29; 0.41 points per game; born January 10th 1983, age 29

We'll delve a lot deeper into the two players later on, but a quick glance at their career stats lines shows us a couple of things. First, Gilbert is a much better offensive defenseman and the Oilers (who already suffer from a less than offensively gifted back end) will miss his prowess in that department. Gilbert already has more goals in his career and he's played 359 fewer games.

Which brings us to the second point. Even though they are only 4 and a half months apart in age, Schultz has played almost twice as many games as Gilbert. That can be both good and bad. It's good because Schultz is depended on to be a shutdown defender who will make good decisions at key times, and that is something that comes with experience. It's bad because a player like Schultz, who blocks shots and plays tough minutes, will wear down more quickly than other players do. For him to have almost double the mileage of Gilbert at the same age has many pitfalls.

So why trade Gilbert for Schultz? The Oilers obviously felt the need to tighten up defensively and Schultz was perceived to be better at accomplishing that than Gilbert. Below is a comparison to see how the two stack up in a few key areas over the last three seasons. To judge Gilbert on seasons before that seems unfair because he's only been in the league for five full years.

Tom Gilbert has:

- averaged around 23:14 in ice time over the last three years
- a minus-28 rating
- 413 blocked shots
- 178 hits
- 208 giveaways
- faced the second-toughest competition among Oilers defensemen at even strength
- started his shifts an average of 50.5% of the time in the offensive zone at even strength
- the fourth, second and third best relative Corsi of Oilers defensemen at even strength

Nick Schultz has:

- averaged around 20:15 in ice time over the last three years
- a minus-22 rating
- 411 blocked shots
- 222 hits
- 72 giveaways
- faced the 5th, 1st, and 3rd toughest competition among Wild defensemen at even strength
- started his shifts an average of 42.1% of the time in the offensive zone at even strength
- the worst relative Corsi among Wild defensemen (20 or more GP) in two of the last three years, and the third-best two years ago

The two main differences here are that Schultz is leaned on much more outside the offensive zone, which is obviously having a negative effect on his Corsi. He's also less prone to giving away the puck. Considering that the Oilers are last in the NHL in giveaways, that must be something they valued.

Tom Gilbert is more dynamic, however, in that he can be used on the powerplay while Schultz is not. If the Oilers intend to tighten up defensively, they must expect more from Schultz on the penalty kill than they were getting from Gilbert. How have their results been?

Schultz has spent 147:54 killing penalties for the Wild this season. With that said, he's been on the ice for 6.99 goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time.

Gilbert has spent 153:38 killing penalties for the Oilers this season. He's been on the ice for 4.85 goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time.

So, Gilbert has spent more time killing penalties this season and has had better results. The numbers from one season do not tell the whole story, but based on those numbers Schultz is not an upgrade over Gilbert on the penalty kill, and certainly not on the powerplay. Schultz can handle himself at even strength against tough competition and zone starts, but not so much so that he is a massive upgrade over Tom Gilbert.

Unless the Oilers see something that I don't, I have a hard time counting this trade as a win.


  1. Wow that giveaway stat says a million words. It's really the only stat we need to concern ourselves with. I don't think I've seen as many turnovers as I did last night against the jets (although they came from both sides of the ice). It will be refreshing to know that the first pass won't be to the other teams tape (although I'm sure if you look at this years stats,Gilbert is probably doing better in giveaways than previous years).

  2. Gilbert's giveaway totals have been fairly constant over his career. Starting in 2007-08: 74, 70, 76, 84, and now 45 (a 79 giveaway pace over 82 games). However, his game is so well rounded that it's easier to accept than from less complete players. Big picture-wise, the Wild got the best player in the deal.