Ed Note: In honor of Gerbe's two goal, first star effort last night, here's a well-argued rebuttal to an article we wrote last week, edited slightly for front page posting.
As Rolston appears to be juggling the bottom 9 quite significantly, Nathan Gerbe appears to be getting the start at RW on the second line alongside Ott and Ennis. Gerbe seems to have been getting a lot of flack lately in light his non-existent offensive numbers. Yet, under Rolston, it appears Gerbe will be featured more, even getting net front powerplay time. Fans seem to be very critical of Gerbe's playing time, embodied by the following DBTB article:
Look, I get it... he hasn't put up any points, and he lacks the size most people think is necessary to be a grinder. While the first point is somewhat fair, its not like he's consistently put in positions to score. He is coming off major back surgery, and for the most part, has been relegated to 3rd and 4th line duty.
I am not saying he is a franchise cornerstone, but personally, I like role players to do multiple things well. First and foremost, Gerbe can score. Yes, he has no goals on the season. But the kind of skill that he displayed at BC and in Portland doesn't just disappear. Given time and space, he can put the puck home. I think that if he was given a 2nd line wing position night in and night out in the NHL, he would be a 20 goal scorer. I just don't think he is a significant drop off from where Drew Stafford is right now.
Second, he has proven that he can play defense if need be. While fans are quick to point out his drop off in offensive production last year, nobody seems to recall his role on the extremely effective Kaleta, Gaustad, Gerbe line, which shut down opposing offenses and was key in the late season push. In this role, he also proved to be an effective agitator, who finished checks a bruised egos around the league.
Lastly, its leadership. Everyone knows the kid has heart. He is a winner, plain and simple. He and Miller are the only two players that I see on this roster, that unquestionably are ready to play night in and night out , handle their business like pros, and truly hate to lose. To me that is worth something. His workout habits are legendary, he does little things like buying tickets for members of the military, and plays anywhere he is asked on the roster without thinking twice. It wasn't long ago that the biggest gripe with this team was its heart. Personally, I would rather see him wear an "A" than Stafford.
I don't know how much I love him on the same line as Ennis, but we will just have to see. Otherwise, I think if you define a role for him, and give him a couple games to settle in, he will get the job done. That is the kind of flexibility I like in role players.