Jeff Gilbert is the lacrosse defenseman you hear very little about, which has several possible explanations. He’s not a fighter? Right. He doesn’t make mistakes that result in trips to the penalty box? Right. He’s not very good? Wrong. Hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Gilbert, who plays National Lacrosse League ball with the Minnesota Swarm and Major Series ball with the Brooklin Redmen, is a tactical defender that is smart with his aggression and precise with his checks. He’s sound fundamentally and because of the nature of the beast that comes with playing defense, you know you’re doing well when people aren’t talking about you after the game. It’s kind like of being a referee. If people are talking, it’s because you screwed up. But that’s certainly not the case with Gilbert, a veteran defender who brings stability and effectiveness to the back end, and it’s this ability that has the left-hander out of Barrie, Ont., on ILIndoor’s Top 50 list.
Gilbert had 36 PIM in 2013. Combined. That’s 16 regular-season NLL games (14 PIM) with the Swarm and 17 MSL games (22) with the Redmen. That’s barely a minute per game and when you bring the type of defense Gilbert does, and you’re able to keep it on the floor, that’s 1 huge bonus for your team.
And considering he’s a bit of a late-comer to the game after pursuing pro hockey, the wow factor here is how much better would he be had he dedicated himself to lacrosse only? That’s impossible to tell, of course, and we’re certainly not begrudging Gilbert his decisions. All we know is that Gilbert’s presence means a whole hell of a lot to the teams he’s with as the Swarm have advanced to the division final the 2 seasons he’s been with them, and the Redmen were playing in the MSL finals with him as the bedrock of their defensive foundation.
Is that a trend? Of course it is. And with just 5 NLL seasons under his belt and 4 MSL seasons, there’s plenty of room and time for him to polish his natural athletic ability for lacrosse. He’s consistently among the team leaders in forced turnovers and if he’s not the first player to a pile for a loose ball, he’s in the thick of it to clear room for teammates to gain possession.
Gilbert is a leader by example, something the young Minnesota Swarm team needs. Especially on defense. And with the Swarm, and Redmen, coming so close in recent seasons to holding up championship trophies, it will surprise few to see Gilbert as part of a title celebration in the very near future.
“It’s a clean defensive approach that earns Gilbert the praise he gets. Like Moleski before him in this Top 50 list, what’s not to love about a defender who can get the job done without costing his team minutes in the box? He’s an unsung of a hero as you can find in the NLL, and his contributions are the type that earn him the respect of teammates through and through.” – Bob Chavez
“Gilbert is another one of those ex-hockey guys who came to lacrosse seriously later in life. While Gilbert has logged 5 NLL seasons, he has not put the time in the sport scores of others have. This is worth mentioning as Gilbert is still improving at this stage of his career while providing the steady style of play and solid numbers like a Moleski or Mydske. Gilbert is invaluable to the Swarm back end with his leadership and transition ability. Jeff’s game is an overriding factor for Swarm success and has been since he came over from Toronto in 2012.” – Marty O’Neill
“A real unsung hero type, Gilbert plays a smart, technically sound game that he backs up with resolute physical play. He can also get the ball up the floor and knows what to do with it when he does. He’s a quiet leader who can be relied upon in all game situations.” – Stephen Stamp
No. 50: Aaron Bold
No. 49: Brad Self
No. 48: Jesse Gamble
No. 47: Rory Smith
No. 46: Kiel Matisz
No. 45: Lewis Ratcliff
No. 44: Johnny Powless
No. 43: Tyler Hass
No. 42: Sid Smith
No. 41: Brett Mydske
No. 40: Stephan Leblanc
No. 39: Kevin Ross
No. 38: Jeff Moleski
No. 37: Drew Westervelt
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