He's 7th on my list. I have to justify why I may have sold him short:
1) Great balance of offense and defence, but...
There's no denying it, the top half of the pie is exactly what we're after – above average O and D. The only thing was: shouldn't it have been expected? I certainly think the offensive half should have been on Pittsburgh. And looking at the D, it's better than I would have guessed for Pitts, but Gill was tempting fate by allowing more than the average number of chances against Fleury and co.
2) Possibility of bad giveaway balance
My perception of Hal Gill was always that of a slow defenceman who gave away the puck when pressured. Never mind for a minute that Andrei Markov is no star in this regard, getting near 3.0 giveaways every 60 minutes is keeping some poor company – well within the bottom 10% of Dmen in this league. Gill has flirted with that number twice in the last 3 years and last year, though improved, was still in the bottom 30-odd Dmen in this regard. A one-off is forgivable (see O'Byrne), is 3 strikes?
3) Strangely low hit numbers
Considering he's 6'7", it seems it would be difficult to keep the hit numbers as low as they are. It makes me wonder if Gill hits when players come to him, but is not so good at catching them. Either that or he's the Peter Crouch of hockey – a man whose made a career on being a giant, but possessing in reality a complement of little man skills. This was really what tipped it for O'Byrne with me. Though I don't think hits are the be all and end all that Komi does, I do think it is important not to dress 6 defencemen who shy from hard contact.
Tobalev on Gill:
Part two of the plan is the bigger and heavier Hal Gill. His size (6’7”, 250lbs.) are really the only things getting him work in this league. My memories of him are that of a pretty useless defenceman on some pretty dirty/cheap teams (save Pittsburgh). It is therefore quite surprising that he was +11 last year, but I guess we should remember that he was on the best team. The whole hockey world saw during the Pens’ playoff run what this behemoth could (and couldn’t) offer on the ice and many people saw him as a liability on that team. He was, however, used in 24 playoff games and did win a cup – those are experiences that can’t be taught.
I am glad that we are employing Gill as a #6 man as anything more would be way beyond his abilities. The upside for us is that he is big and strong and should in theory intimidate opposing forwards. He also doesn’t seem afraid to muck it up and drop them when he has to, which will also help our team. His addition should, at the very least, help us reduce chances against and will hopefully alleviate some of the fighting and hitting duties from other (smaller) players. He may chip in a few points, but as a 3rd pairing (with Mara, Spacek or Gorges) type guy all I’ll be looking for is positive play. If, for his 12-15 minutes/game, he can keep our end clear then I will start to see the value in him more and more.
Where Gill will start 2009-10: Starting lineup
Where Gill will end 2009-10: Insurance policy
Points: 2 G, 7 A, 9 Pts
I didn't bother to run all the stats on Weber – 3 games doesn't really tell us anything. And it would be foolish to try and pick trends from the regular season and playoffs as short as they were.
If I can indulge in one point of frivolity, I'd have to say that it is a good sign that the projected offensive defenceman has already got his first NHL points and his first playoff goal. Though far from confirmation, it shows the first signs of his abilities to adapt to the higher level.
Tobalev on Weber
Do we have another Swiss (Can’t) Miss on our hands? I sure hope so. If he could be half the player that Streit was/is then we are in for a good ride (until we let him walk for nothing that is)...
Yannick really surprised a lot of people last year and it all started back in September. There was a buzz about him out of camp and he turned that into a strong start on the farm. In fact, he netted 44 points in just 68 games which is quite something for a 20 year old, let alone a defenceman. His strong play and some injuries (Markov, Schneider) meant that he finally made his way to MTL in the spring. Believe it or not he only featured in 6 games (3 of which came in the playoffs), but still managed to turn some heads. His play during that time looked alright, and he scored a goal and added 2 assists. He held his own in his our end too. Weber was a nice little bonus for Habs fans who had endured a rough 3 months.
Even so, I think that there are just too many NHL-level defencemen already in Montreal for Yannick to crack the squad this year as a regular. He will certainly get a call-up or two, but there is no point having a PP specialist in the press-box as a 7th defenceman – that position has O’Byrne written all over it. Instead he should go to Hamilton and play a lot of hockey. A spot will likely open up in Montreal in the next few years as we always seem to be rotating new PP bodies onto the blue-line anyway. I would like Yannick to work on his defensive game so that it becomes NHL-ready for when we need him. Offensively, however, he just has to stay the course – I see no issues there. Weber should put up 0.75 PPG type numbers on the farm and 0.25-0.35 PPG numbers when he is in Montreal; I just can’t foresee how much time he’ll play where.
Where Weber will start 2009-10: Hamilton
Where Weber will end 2009-10: Hamilton, with a few more games of NHL experience
Points: 3 G, 3 A, 6 Pts
I have put Gill and Weber in this category of remaining NHL defencemen for now because that is where, come season's end, I think they will be. Weber, as we said, has too many NHLers in front of him this season and will probably be in Hamilton for a big part of the season. Gill on the other hand is an able NHLer, I just feel that on versatility and potential (and a whim) that O'Byrne might work out better. Nevertheless, Gill will play, and quite a lot, quite simply because many NHLers have a very hard time the bigger the body they see in front of them (see Plekanec).
Statistics adapted from nhl.com, behindthenet.ca, Olivier