Before Jeff Tambellini gave goal-starved Islanders fans fits, there was Andy Hilbert. Hilbert didn't come with the same sniper label that's affixed to Tambellini, but each scored well in college and the minors, and Scott Gordon even compared Tambellini's career crossroads in 2008-09 to that faced by Hilbert when he was a Providence Bruin under Gordon.
While Tambellini just couldn't buy a goal at the NHL level, Hilbert was cursed by clanging goalposts and a few memorable, losing confrontations with a gaping net. Yet Hilbert remade himself into a reliable defensive forward and penalty killer. Now Hilbert is quite possibly saying goodbye to the Island this week. He's an unrestricted free agent (well, barring some news between now and midnight), and the Islanders are in a youth movement. Can one cash in on an 11-goal season?
This is one of an occasional series. (Other Islanders' report cards are here.) Read the rest of the post (and poem!) below the poll/jump, vote your "grade" on Hilbert's 2008-09 seasons -- relative to your preseason expectations -- and give your thoughts on what you see in his future (drifts elsewhere? re-signed later in the summer? don't care?).
#11 / Left Wing / New York Islanders
Feb 06, 1981
|2008 - Andy Hilbert||67||11||16||27||-3||22||1||1||41||16:09||167||6.6|
Random Fact: In an injury-shortened season (which applies to every Islander), Hilbert's 11 goals were a career high at the NHL level. Of course, he'll never have a stretch like the 18 points (7-11) in 19 games he had in 2005-06 as a late-season winger for Sidney Crosby.
'This is our concern, Dude' Fact: Hilbert's 38.2% on faceoffs (186 attempts) leaves something to be desired, and perhaps explains one reason why this "center" is used more as a left wing.
The Story: Hilbert became one of Scott Gordon's go-to penalty killers, logging 2:41 per game on the PK. He's a defensively responsible forward, holding the fort on a team that gave up a lot of goals and didn't score many. But he's one of several that fit that description on this team. With Nate Thompson, Richard Park and Tim Jackman under contract (or arbitration eligible, in Thompson's case), and higher-ceilling youths pushing from below, is there room on the roster to re-sign him? Is there reason?
The Good: With Tambellini the new source of scoring drought-fueled fan frustration, fans have gotten over the hit posts and missed empty nets that seemed to symbolize Hilbert's previous seasons. The reality is Hilbert is a useful checking forward with a splash of hands. When expectations are adjusted accordingly, he's a nice piece to have. His minus-3 this year was the lowest of his career.
The Bad: His 11 goals was his NHL career high. His 27 points were one short of his career high, reached in his first season on Long Island. This isn't really a bad thing for a checking forward, but the Islanders have enough of these guys -- of varying quality -- that many fans are looking for an injection of more skill.
The steady, non-descript Hilbert
As unappreciated as Dilbert
Who'll lead the way
On next year's PK?
Could it be, Hilbert's defection will hurt?
The Grade: This is where you come in. Am I wrong to think last season was the best we can hope for Hilbert? Am I wrong to say he did all that was asked? Feel free to say, "cut him loose!" in comments, but in the poll, grade his season according to your preseason expectations. So if you thought he should be an 18-goal scorer (remember he missed 15 games with injury), he didn't meet your expectations and you're giving him a 1 or 2. If you thought anything from him this year would be a bonus, you give him a 4 or 5.