2013-14 Season In Review: Brian Gibbons

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We continue our series looking back on the individual performances of each of the Pittsburgh Penguins players. Next up: Brian Gibbons.

Age: 26 (February 26, 1988)

Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent; completed a 1-year contract worth $550,000 at the NHL level

Buyout Status: n/a

2013-14 Stats

GP

TOI/GP

Goals

Assists

Points

41

11:56

5

12

17

Corsi For %

Corsi Rel %

Quality of Comp. (TOI%)

Zone Start %

PDO

51.0% (8)

+3.3% (8)

28.7% (9)

54.1% (6)

102.0% (4)

(Numbers in parentheses indicate descending rank among regular Penguins forwards.)

The Speedster

In July 2013, after he completed his second season with WBS Penguins, the Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed forward Brian Gibbons to a 1-year contract, a two-way deal worth $550,000 at the NHL level. He was initially signed by the organization as an undrafted free agent in April 2011. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward played NCAA hockey at Boston College, where he scored 164 points in 160 games, won two national titles, and won the John "Snooks" Kelley Memorial Award as a senior to go with the Academic Excellence Award.

Gibbons started the 2013-14 season with the AHL club, but as the Pittsburgh Penguins entered a mini-slump in mid-November they needed an infusion of energy. After a particularly brutal road loss in New Jersey, the Pens quietly placed Dustin Jeffrey on waivers and called up Brian Gibbons, who was watching football on Sunday when John Hynes called to tell him he was going to Pittsburgh. His first game was going to be a home game against the high-flying Anaheim Ducks, and he fit right in, tallying a goal and assist in his very first NHL game. His speed stood out immediately, and from there he continued to be a valuable and impactful forward for the Pens in the remainder of the season.

GIFs of the Year

First NHL Goal (November 18, 2013): Ducks are in town. Geno circles the wagons to set up Gibby for his first NHL goal.

Blueshirts Beaten (January 3, 2014): Fantastic play on the boards behind the net by the little guy to set up Jokinen for a goal.

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Mr. Breakaway (April 19, 2014): Gibbons breaks loose and beats Bobrovsky. The kid's got wheels. (Gif credit @PeteBlackburn)

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Always a shortie threat (May 8, 2014): Kris Letang springs up Speedy Gonzalez for a short-handed breakaway.

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Preseason Expectations

I don't think many people had any significant expectations as far as Gibbons' contribution on the NHL level this season. He'd spent the entire previous season in Wilkes-Barre and there were certainly several forwards on the AHL depth chart who were thought to have more NHL potential. He was already 25 without a single NHL game under his belt. Was it unreasonable to expect that he'd be a career AHL player? Probably not. Except there was that speed, and the coaching staff thought they could use a sparkplug, whoever it turned out to be.

Verdict

All in all, Gibbons appeared in 41 regular season games and 8 playoff games for the big club. He tallied 5 goals and 12 assists, while seeing time on the third line as well as the first line for some decent stretches following #9 going down in late December. After the Stempniak acquisition in April, Gibbons returned to the bottom 6 and settled into a comfortable role as a versatile forward with amazing speed, a good penalty killer and a constant short-handed and breakaway threat.

Following the Pens elimination by the New York Rangers, Gibbons returned to Wilkes-Barre as the AHL Penguins were amidst their own playoff effort. He scored an amazing goal, quite possibly one of the top goals in hockey this season, and kept contributing up until the baby Pens lost game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to St. John's IceCaps and were eliminated from Calder Cup contention. Following another handshake line, Gibbons is now a free agent who has opened many eyes this season. I am absolutely certain that he will get a full-time job in the NHL next season, but will it be with the Penguins? Who knows. I'd like to see him back on a deal that's right. While he is undersized and some aspects of his game aren't that great (like his play along the boards), he is a defensively responsible forward with lightning speed who might be affordable and productive in a bottom 6 role.

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Brian Gibbons’ season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e., 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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