Nathan Gerbe is the smallest player in the NHL. In fact, at 5’5, Gerbe is only 2 inches taller than the shortest player in NHL history, goaltender Roy Woters. Woters never let his size get the best of him, as the 5’3 Hall of Famer won the Hart Memorial trophy, along with a Vezina trophy, as well as being the first goaltender to ever record back-to-back shutouts in the NHL. Though Gerbe doesn’t have the accolades Woters has, he is very similar to the original-six era goalie as he has never let his size get the best of him. Gerbe first appeared in the league in the 08-09 season, registering 1 point in ten games before splitting the next two seasons between the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester American until earning a full time roster spot in the 10-11 campaign, during which he scored the fastest two goals in Sabres history, scoring them against the Islanders in the span of 5 seconds. This was his best statistical year, netting 16 goals and 31 points in 64 games. Since then, Gerbe’s point totals have dropped each season and after signing a three year deal in 2011, the Sabres bought out the final year of his contract following last year’s lockout-shortened season. This didn’t deter the Oxford, Michigan native, as he trained hard over the offseason and earned himself a one-year, two-way deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. Since then Gerbe has shown what a hard worker he is, with two impressive fights this year, one of them in the preseason against Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens, as well as a bout with the much bigger and stronger Travis Hamonic.
Gerbe’s offensive production is also nothing to scoff at. In 42 games last year, Gerbe only found the back of the net 5 times for the Sabres, and finished the year with 10 points and a -3 rating. Through his first 16 games in Carolina this year, Gerbe already has 4 goals and 7 points and is on his way to enjoying a career year if he can maintain this pace. There is also a bit of added incentive for the undersized winger, as he is aiming for a chance to represent team USA in Sochi this year as part of the winter olympics.
Cracking the roster won’t be easy for Gerbe, especially considering the offensive threats who are perennial locks for team USA. But Gerbe is no stranger to adversity, seeing as how he faces it every time he steps out onto the ice against 5 men who are always bigger than him. When asked about the disadvantages of his size, Gerbe had this to say:
“I just try to be strong, strong mentally. I don’t listen to what anybody says, and it really doesn’t bother me. I just try to do my own thing each and every day, and I trust myself and have confidence in my abilities.”
Nashville Predators GM David Poille is the head of roster management for team USA, and he will be announcing his roster at the 2014 winter classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. I believe that in order for Gerbe to make the Olympic squad, he needs to improve his defensive play, and even then his chances look slim. But, there is still some time before the roster is finalized, which means that there’s plenty of time for someone like Patrick Kane or Zach Parise to get injured, and injuries are always the best opportunities to impress.