Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gilbert vs Ballard

I found the announcement of Keith Ballard's new contract to be quite interesting yesterday because it was very similar to Tom Gilberts new contract. Gilbert got 24/6 and Ballard got 25.2/6. Both contracts are 6 years with Ballard getting slightly more money. Ballard and Gilbert are different players but whats interesting is that back in 2003-2004, the Oilers had a choice of Gilbert or Ballard for Tommy Salo. The Oilers wanted a puck mover and chose Gilbert over Ballard (see Mathesons take on the decision).

It wasnt until recently that the decision to take Gilbert over Ballard look like a good move. In the new NHL the value of puck movers increased significantly and while Ballard may still be a better player, Gilbert is making a very good case for himself. One thing about the stats is they dont tell who will be a better player they really can only tell you who has been a better player thus far. I decided to take a look at the numbers. Breakdown can be found here and I have a summary below (blogger sucks for charts, its soon time for wp or drupal).

Some interesting notes:

1) Gilbert actually did better on the PK that Ballard. Surprising but the Oilers did have a better PK so that helps Gilbert's numbers a bit.
2) Ballard had a better PP +/- ON/60 but had under a minute TOI/60. He hardly played on the PP and I dont think he'd maintain those numbers.
3) Ballard played with better players against tougher competition but was an outscorer. This number here is the big difference between the two. Ballard played against top competition and came out ahead.
4) Not shown in the graphs but Gilbert played about a minute more per game. Gilberts TOI near the end of the season was quite high.

I'm a Gilbert fan. Given his massive improvements in his game, the type of game that allows for improvement with experience (thinking mans game) and how the Oilers brass raves about Gilberts work ethic, I think the Gilbert will improve enough to make the call look like the right one. As of now, Ballard is the better player IMO. The Oilers really need a shutdown D and the debate is close. So Oilers fans, who would you take now? Ballard or Gilbert? Either one for Salo is robbery.