Preds Hoping Gill Can Help Navigate Path to Cup

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 11:27 AM CT / Features
By Doug Brumley  - Nashville Predators
X
Share with your Friends


Preds Hoping Gill Can Help Navigate Path to Cup

There’s no getting around it: Hal Gill is a big man. At 6-foot-7 and 241 pounds, the 37-year-old defenseman doesn’t exactly blend in with a crowd. Not even a crowd of NHL hockey players.

“We were in Detroit and someone said ‘Is Hal Gill out there?’ ” Predators head coach Barry Trotz says. “And I’m like, ‘You don’t know our team very well.’ He stands out a little bit.”

Unfortunately for Trotz and the Predators, their giant trade acquisition—picked up from Montreal 10 days prior to the Feb. 27, 2012, trade deadline for his size, post-season experience and penalty killing prowess—wasn’t out there at all for Nashville’s first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings. A lower-body injury prevented Gill from competing. The Predators dispatched the Wings in five games, regardless, giving Gill more time to recover. Now, the veteran of 105 playoff games and winner of a Stanley Cup championship with Pittsburgh in 2009 could make his 2012 post-season debut Friday night as Nashville begins Round 2 action in Arizona.

“He’s a big, strong guy,” winger Patric Hornqvist says. “He’s great on the [penalty kill]. And he plays really strong in front of our net. So of course we need him in the playoffs. I don’t know if he’s ready or not but if he’s going to be back, he’s going to improve our team.”

When the Predators acquired Gill in February, they ranked 16th among NHL teams at defusing opposing teams’ power play opportunities. Due in large part to Gill’s presence, the team’s penalty kill efficiency climbed to 10th overall by the final day of the regular season. But Gill, a popular guy in the locker room, brings more than his defensive skills to this team. He’s a superb communicator as well, both on and off the ice.

“Hal’s great,” Trotz says. “Hal talks about the game a lot. He’s an old pro. He wants to get better at what his role is. He’s good at helping young guys. He’s good at having good questions in terms of power play/penalty kill. ... He’s got a lot of experience. Guys lean on him for that. And the coaches lean on him for that too.”

“I think everybody knows that he likes to talk,” captain Shea Weber says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s fun to have in the locker room. He loosens up the guys. He’s been around for a long time and he knows different situations. He knows when to loosen guys up and he knows when to be serious.”

Gill carries his talkative nature onto the ice as well, communicating with teammates more than the typical player might.

“He’s always talking out there, which makes things easier, especially on the [penalty kill],” defenseman Kevin Klein says. “We’re always yelling at each other. With a lot of younger guys, a lot of times they’re a little hesitant about being vocal, but slowly as they gain more confidence they’re starting to be vocal too. So it just helps as an overall thing.”

“I want to try and control as much as I can on the ice and when you’re talking to your teammates you can control a lot,” Gill says. “I can’t control what they’re going to do but if I can give a heads up to one of my teammates, where I’m going to be or what’s coming at them or whatever it is—talking to our goalies—I try to talk as much as I can.”

Gill’s combination of wisdom, experience and communication has been invaluable for everyone from Weber—who says he’s learned how to block shots by watching Gill—to one of the team’s smallest players, rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis.

“We obviously play two different styles of games,” the 5-foot-10, 179-pound Ellis says. “He obviously deals one way with the speedy guys and I have to deal another way with the bigger guys. We’ve talked about a few different things and just how to kind of push guys off balance and whatnot, which is kind of big for me to kind of win those battles.”

If Gill wasn’t noticeable enough before, he’s now adopted the Mohawk hairstyle that is trending through the Predators locker room. It’s an outward sign of how the team’s elder statesman is a team player—one that teammates respect and listen to. The Predators acquired Gill for his defensive skills and his experience, but it may turn out that his ability to relate to others could be his biggest asset.

“He knows what we need to go through to win the Cup,” Hornqvist says. “It’s a long way there but he’s the only guy on our team who has a Cup, so he’s a big leader off and on the ice.”

Literally.

SCHEDULE
 

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
F. Forsberg 82 26 37 15 63
M. Ribeiro 82 15 47 11 62
R. Josi 81 15 40 15 55
S. Weber 78 15 30 15 45
C. Smith 82 23 21 11 44
C. Wilson 77 20 22 19 42
M. Fisher 59 19 20 4 39
J. Neal 67 23 14 12 37
R. Ellis 58 9 18 8 27
S. Jones 82 8 19 3 27
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 41 17 6 .923 2.18
C. Hutton 6 7 4 .902 2.61