Canadiens defenseman Tom Gilbert has had a tough season. He’s currently nursing a season-ending knee injury, and when the campaign closes, 2015-16 will officially have been the worst statistical season of his professional career.
Gilbert’s struggles haven’t been made any easier by Montreal’s play, either. The 33-year-old blueliner was part of a Canadiens team that started the year in such promising fashion only to watch it all slip away behind an injury to star netminder Carey Price, an ever-growing injured list and an inability to turn around a sinking ship. And Gilbert, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, told La Presse’s Marc Antoine Godin that it was a lack of maturity that played a part in the season spiralling out of control.
“(We) found excuses while we lose, instead of finding ways to come together to win,” Gilbert told Godin.
Gilbert told Godin that Montreal could beat anyone when they played up to their capability, but as things started to go south, the group couldn’t find a way to fix the problems. Sometimes they’d try to do too much, and Gilbert told Godin that Montreal may need more veteran voices in the dressing room before they take a big step forward. Whether or not Gilbert will be one of those voices is to be seen. The safe bet, however, is that he won’t be back in Montreal next season.
Over the course of this campaign, Gilbert has seen his average ice time drop by nearly 2:30 per game and offensively his season has been woeful. Six times in his career has Gilbert eclipsed the 20-point plateau, including seasons of 31, 33 and 45 points. For Montreal this season, though, Gilbert was only able to muster one goal and two points in 45 outings.
Prior to coming to Montreal, Gilbert had regularly been a 20-minute-plus per night defender, but it’s been tough for him to crack the 19-minute mark this season in Montreal. In the first year of his two-year, $5.6-million deal last season, Gilbert averaged more than 19 minutes per game, but even that was a step back of two minutes per night from what he was skating with the Panthers. Of course, that’s in part due to the depth of the Canadiens blueline, and that’s another reason Gilbert could be on his way out.
Montreal could be looking to get younger on their backend and keeping a veteran like Gilbert on their bottom pairing isn’t going to do much to help build a stronger defense. Beyond that, he may have lost his spot in the lineup to the likes of Greg Pateryn, Mark Barberio or Joel Hanley as soon as next season.