How To Get Off On The Right Foot: A Tom Gilbert Story

Change is never easy. From the Minnesota Wild locker room, where Cal Clutterbuck was visibly upset, to the blogosphere, the Wild's trade of longtime defenseman Nick Schultz to Edmonton for Tom Gilbert has been met with skepticism.

New Wild D Tom Gilbert or fans last night (photo Bruce Bennett/Getty)
More on Gilbert's first night after the jump

Jesse over at Hockey Wilderness summed up the blogosphere feelings on Schultz leaving:
The Schultz deal will hurt on a personal fan level, as Nick Schultz is a fan favorite and became a face of the franchise; however, I understand the need to move him for a defensman who can help start breakouts, which is an area that the Wild have struggled all season long (including the hot start). The Wild have the lowest scoring blueline in the NHL, and it had to be addressed. Gilbert might not be the best player, but he very well could have been the best player AVAILABLE, which is key.
Others like frequent FRB contributor Cole are ecstatic. But for the most part, Gilbert may be the one Minnesota native who actually has to earn his stripes on the Wild, as State of the State of Hockey explains.
But to be honest, I'm just not sure about this deal. I hope Gilbert ends up a better fit, but if he really is of similar value to Schultz, then is it really worth the risk of pulling Schultz out of the locker room? Gilbert's, even being a Minnesota native, is going to be under some pressure from the fans, becuase of the player he replaced.

Then again, there are plenty of Edmonton fans not sure about this deal either, so that in itself gives me reason to be hopeful.
So Gilbert getting off to a good start in his first game in Iron Range Red would be a good peace offering, right? That didn't happen. Instead the new defenseman took an early penalty, got beat along with Marco Scandella and Erik "Sieve" Christensen by Anze Kopitar for a goal and was part of a defensive corps that gave up three goals to the Los Angeles Kings.

And that was just the first period.

The following forty minutes didn't get better for the Wild en route to a 4-0 loss. Minnesota looked out of place that they would have been better off playing basketball.

In a conference call following the deal General Manager Chuck Fletcher stated that "This was a hockey trade. This wasn't a salary dump or trading a player we didn't value. It was a trade where you're trading a good player for a good player. It's always difficult ... It wasn't an easy price. Let's put it that way. "

Gilbert didn't look like that good player although neither did anyone wearing the Wolfbearcat on their chest (sorry Nick Palmiei and Dany Heatley). That might be the most important thing to remember as it's only one game. Sure, it would have been great to see Gilbert not do his best Zidlicky impression but not everyone can start off their first game going +2 and scoring a goal in a 6-2 win over Vancouver. Not everyone can be Cam Barker.

(Hindsight being 20/20, my favorite part of Brian Stensaas' blog is seeing "This kid is going to make a difference." Second is the fact that James Sheppard fought Aaron Rome.)

Maybe Tom Gilbert will be the second coming of Barker and Edmonton will create another dynasty led by Nick Schultz. Maybe things work out. Like draft picks, trades cannot be judged after one game and as the Barker deal shows there needs to be a pattern before seeing what is an anomaly and what is normal.

It will take time to see if Gilbert works out, even if he didn't get off on the right foot. In the end, the best summary of the deal might be by Nick over at Hitting the Post.
I'm not even sure Tom Gilbert is The Answer. Or even a material part of it. I think the pressure on him to "replace" Schultz or at least to fill his shoes, in his home town, making big money, will be immense. Even if fans can rightly look to him to replace Zidlicky, instead of Schultz, I think Gilbert's got an uphill battle. Face it, sons of Minnesota haven't exactly thrived here with the Wild.  
But I like that Fletcher has conviction. The status quo is dead, long live the status quo.

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