Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Hal Gill has been possibly the most notable pick-up at the trade deadline for the Nashville Predators. He has size and strength, can out poke check any forward by a good foot and a half of stick and has been the difference maker on the Predators penalty kill that has risen to 10th in the NHL. Although he lacks speed due to his lumbering huge frame, he also is quick to shy away from handing out hits against other forwards. He instead likes to wait for the puck to come to him and try to dig it out of the corners with occasional success. Gill not throwing the huge hit may be disheartening to some fans (like me) who want him to get into the other team’s head about how hard to come into our defensive zone. The waiting for the puck to come to him may be a liability also, but where he lacks in these areas, he is diligent about making up at other times in the game.
After a cursory glance at Hal Gill’s stats on NHL.com, he is playing a sound defensive game, even better with the Predators where his plus/minus went from a -7 in Montreal to a +4 in Nashville. His penalty minutes are also the lowest of his career (37) and staying out of the box is key for a penalty-kill specialist the likes of Hal Gill.
Another stat that Hal Gill is one of the best in the league is blocked shots. Nashville has been accustomed to players and especially defensemen sacrificing themselves to block a shot a time or three. No defenseman personified that more than Greg Zanon who constantly lead the Predators in the blocked shots category. In keeping with this tradition, Hal Gill is ranked 16th in the NHL in blocked shots with 161.
Some concerns arise when it comes to Gill’s ability to play the body. With his frame being “sasquatch-ian” compared to pretty much every other NHL’er not named Chara, Gill just doesn’t lay out many of the forwards but instead uses his stick and exceptional reach to disrupt the play and dig the puck out of the corners. How successful has he been in this endeavor?
For NHL defensemen, Gill ranks 17th in giveaways (not a stat you want to be in the top 20), 90th in takeaways and 105th in hits. Although these aren’t the final say in what Hal Gill brings to the Predators, it is interesting to note given the tools that Hal Gill has to work with in strength and size.
Even with those stats being less than stellar, Hal Gill is still an integral piece to the Predators post-season. Many have stated that had the Predators acquired Hal Gill last season, he could have been a difference-maker against a forward like Ryan Kesler (who Gill pretty much shut down this season and as Terry Crisp quipped “was using Kesler like a snow shovel”).
Gill was just one of Poile’s many deft moves at the trade deadline, but in the playoffs where defense is at a premium, he may be the most favorable pick-up for the Predators (other than that Radulov guy I keep hearing about).
Follow me on Twitter…@Preducated