Gilbert working on his game

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Benched during the game and taken to the verbal woodshed after it by head coach Pat Quinn, Tom Gilbert knew the media vultures would be circling his stall after practice Thursday.

“This should be a good one,” he said with a dry smile as the notebooks and cameras closed in for the uncomfortable Q and A.

At least he kept his sense of humour... although he had plenty of time to work on his material during the two periods he didn’t play Wednesday against Colorado.

Now he needs to work on his game.

“It’s definitely not fun sitting on the bench, watching your team pay out there,” he said. “It’s a lot easier when you win, but it’s a little bit frustrating. This hasn’t happened in a long time.

“The last couple of games there’s a lot of plays I’d like to get back, be a little better, be a little tougher, but I can’t take them back now.”

Gilbert isn’t close to the player he’s been the last couple of seasons, when he was more dangerous at the other team’s end than his own. His points are way down after 33 and 45-point campaigns, but it’s not the lack of offence that has Quinn perplexed.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he missed a couple of plays there,” said Quinn, who held Gilbert argely responsible for both of Milan Hejduk’s first period goals on Wednesday. “They were two goals, bang, bang, that were directly related to turnovers and bad positioning.”

So he positioned Gilbert on the pine for the rest of the game, limiting him to three shifts in the final 40 minutes.

It’s not permanent, Gilbert isn’t headed down the same path Robert Nilsson is. A $4 million cap hit until 2013, he’s part of the plans.

“You don’t like sitting guys out, but sometimes it gets some attention to concentrate a little better,” said Quinn. “You have a young guy who’s trying to learn what is probably the most difficult position to learn. For defencemen (positioning) is the total key to success, and young guys don’t often know where the hell they’re going.”

Gilbert is a bright, conscientious guy and it won’t take much more than this to get his attention.

“The message has definitely been sent,” he said. “Just be a little tougher around the net. That first goal was a perfect example of it. I just have to make sure I tie up my guy.”

It’ll require stepping out of his comfort zone, but it’s no different than what Quinn has been asking of almost everyone.

“I have to start from scratch, start from the defensive zone, making those plays around the net and branch my game out from there,” said Gilbert. “The more comfortable I get and the more trust I get from them, the better my game will be.”

But as firm as he’s being with Gilbert, Quinn is quick to point out that goals against are usually the result of total breakdowns.

“Here we are nailing one guy, Tom, but we’ve got six (defencemen) who are not doing a strong job on defensive zone coverage. And right now our centres, which are usually the guys down low, they’re just not good enough right now in the defensive zone coverage.

“If you count six or seven defence plus four or five centres, you have 11 people you should be pointing fingers at, so let’s not pull one guy out of the pot.”


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