GILBERT BRULE: READY TO BOUNCE BACK?

Robin Brownlee
September 08 2011 02:30PM

With a sound mind and body, might Gilbert Brule put his struggles of last season behind him and play his way back into the plans of the Edmonton Oilers in 2011-12?

Brule enjoyed the benefit of neither last season. He battled nagging injuries -- a sprained ankle, a concussion and a bruised spleen -- that had him in and out of the line-up and limited him to 41 games. He also wrestled with off-ice issues and family matters that weighed heavily on his mind.

The combination not only prompted speculation by fans and media alike about what might be wrong with the 24-year-old forward, it wiped away all the gains made during what many considered a break-out year in 2009-10, when he scored 17-20-37 in just 65 games. Brule had just seven goals and nine points.

Brule went from being perceived as kid who was finally living up to the reputation that saw Columbus select him sixth overall in the 2005 Entry Draft to something of an afterthought with many fans as they tried to figure out where, and if, he fits in with an Oilers team -- he was supposed to be part of the trade with Los Angeles that brought Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton -- that is laden with young talent at forward.

So, that opening paragraph is a question worth asking -- if Brule has his head on straight and can stay healthy, does he have a chance to bounce back and make himself part of the plans again?

DIFFICULT TIMES

"Everyone has their issues, right? This was stuff that was between my family," Brule said in an interview with Jim Matheson and I at Kinsmen Arenas today. "Things like that.

"It was all new to me, so it was kind of just thrown on my plate and I was dealing with it as I was trying to deal with it as I was trying to deal with a very stressful hockey season. It was very tough, especially with all the injuries I had as well on top of that. It just all kind of weighed down on me pretty heavily last year."

Given what Brule told me about his off-ice situation and that the subject of depression was prominent in the headlines this summer after the suicide of Rick Rypien last month, I asked him if depression was an issue with him, and if he's been treated for it.

"The things that I had to go through with my family were very, very tough and I would never wish this upon anyone, honestly," Brule said.

"It definitely affected me in a very negative way and I was not feeling very good about myself. That's why I wanted to start talking to these people because I'm a good athlete and I'm a good hockey player and I need to be reminded of that and be reassured and have confidence in myself instead of just getting down on myself."

HEAD GAMES

"I wasn't missing hockey because of those things," he said. "It was mostly because of injuries or flu, whatever it was. Things like that. These things I've dealt with all last year with the doctors on our team.

"This summer, I saw a psychologist and a sports psychologist, so I'm trying to get that mental strength back that I kind of lost a little bit . . . I need to get back to that.

"I need to be reminded, to remember that I'm a good player, I was drafted in the first round and I can play. Under the right circumstances, I need to get a good chance and I need to play well and be confident in myself."

Compounding the injuries and the family distractions, Brule got down on himself because of his lack of success on the ice. Add it all up, and Brule made the choice to get help. It struck me that he looked and sounded like a brand new man when we chatted today.

WORST CRITIC

"I think I'm my worst critic," Brule said. "After every game, I'm the one saying I should have done this and that. This year, I'm working with a sports psychologist like crazy to just get away from that.

"I can't think like that. That thinking drags me down and just makes me think too much. After games, I've got to sort of, 'You know what, I didn't do those things right. That's not me. This is what I have to do.' That's it. I can't constantly be thinking all these thoughts. That's when you don't get sleep and it's just too much."

Brule is confident he's turned the corner and can pick up where he left off at the end of the 2009-10 season. Time, as it always does, will tell, but you hope for the best with a likeable kid like him.

"I feel great this year coming into camp," Brule said. "Even with all the stuff that happened this summer, I don't even think about it anymore. I'm thinking of it as a new slate for me.

"You know, maybe they (Oilers) aren't thinking that, but that's the way I'm going in thinking. I just have to put my best foot forward.

"I'm human. Everyone has issues, right? I think the Oilers have been great with me. They're treating me just like a regular person, they're not treating me like I'm some crazy whatever . . . they've been very good with me and very patient, which I respect."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
Avatar
#1 pelhem grenville
September 08 2011, 03:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
10
cheers

OilerLand...that's harsh...

...why not just send him a length of rope and a pen and paper

p.s. sucking hasn't helped you either

Avatar
#2 Wax Man Riley
September 08 2011, 02:56PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
7
cheers

On a completely unrelated note, I just saw RNH driving his big black Ford. I gave him a thumbs up. He gave me one back!

*swwooooonnn*

EDIT: I wonder if that's against the distracted driving legislation.

Avatar
#3 mayorpoop
September 08 2011, 03:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Archaeologuy wrote:

Though, I might hold a grudge if they start him at 4C and neither Lander nor RNH gets to be in the NHL this year.

on this we can agree.

Avatar
#4 Quicksilver ballet
September 08 2011, 04:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

Lean, battered and hungry for anything that resembles success. We're pulling for you Gilbert.

Avatar
#6 Archaeologuy
September 08 2011, 03:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

Though, I might hold a grudge if they start him at 4C and neither Lander nor RNH gets to be in the NHL this year.

Avatar
#8 Balf
September 08 2011, 02:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I hope he rebounds. He along with Jones and Eager would make a very good 4th line that can chip in.

Avatar
#9 BArmstrong
September 08 2011, 02:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I've always liked Gilbert. Plus, according to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, he has the perfect Canadian hockey player birthday. January... first.

Avatar
#10 John Chambers
September 08 2011, 02:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I like Brule. I picked him as my star last year.

He's not going to be a top-6 forward in the NHL, but he battles for the puck like a wolverine, has a cannon for a shot, and is pals with Bono.

JC for one hopes he battles hard in camp, pushes some of the younger guys down to OKC, and at some point even finds some time playing point on the pp. I'm glad we traded Colin Fraser instead of Brule because old Gilles has much greater upside if he can bounce back.

And he's from E-town. What's not to like?

Avatar
#11 Archaeologuy
September 08 2011, 03:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Good for him, in the wake of this terrible summer I'm glad there is more openness (sp?) about his depression or whatever you want to call it. He didnt have to answer, and he would have been within his rights not to, but maybe its one awkward step towards dispelling the taboos of mental health problems.

I dont see him as a big part of this team's future, but if he's cool enough for Bono then he's cool enough for me.

Avatar
#12 Dan the Man
September 08 2011, 04:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Brule can be a very useful player and he sounds like a genuinely good guy so I hope things work out for him.

It won't be easy though, there are a lot of good young players nipping at his heals.

Avatar
#13 gord962
September 08 2011, 05:09PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Always been a fan of Brule and I was very happy to see the Oilers give him a chance when they picked him up from CBJ. If he can get things straight in his head he could move up the depth chart. Unfortunately, he has been low on confidence since the pressure was put on him in the Blue Jackets organization and his many trips up and down from the AHL to the NHL took the air out of his tires early. He isn't the type you motivate with a Mike Keenan type coach. You don't motivate Brule by benching him, demoting and telling him he sucks; he is someone you need to point out the positive and encourage him along. Everyone responds differently and a coach who recognizes that will get the best out of all his players. Best of luck, Gilbert!

Avatar
#14 stevezie
September 09 2011, 12:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I don't know what his family issues are, and I don't think it's my business, but I don't think you need to be clinically depressed to have your work affected by serious family problems.

Avatar
#15 Dirk Dangler
September 09 2011, 12:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Long time reader, first time poster. Or fist time? I'm on the fence with that one. Just like to start out by saying thanks to everyone at ON for their hard work, and helping make long summer months seem a little more bearable. I digress...

I'm not convinced that Brule's ready to contribute to the betterment of the team. I think his story at this time is playing off of the optimism that comes with starting any new season with a clean slate. Personally I find it too convenient that we can so easily forget his disappointing season last year. Mental health is such a taboo subject, it renders the mass public unable to hold people accountable for their shortcomings. The bottom line for me is that Brule was a waste of a roster spot last year. And when the pressure is on during the season, as opposed to the bliss that is optimism in the summer months, I won't be convinced that he's more valuable than any of Gagner, RNH, Omark or Jones. Who essentially are his competition for opening night roster.

I'm sure Brule is a great guy. I don't know this personally, but this seems to be general consensus. Great guy or not, he is miles away from breakout candidate, or most improved, or MVP this season. Brule screams depth. That is all.

Avatar
#16 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 08 2011, 02:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Rishaug seemed to have good things to say about him the other day. Hopefully he can bounce back for us and add some competition.

Avatar
#17 I'm a Scientist!
September 08 2011, 02:42PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

But...But...But...where does he fit?

Avatar
#18 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 08 2011, 02:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
I'm a Scientist! wrote:

But...But...But...where does he fit?

4th line center?

Avatar
#19 The Towel Boy
September 08 2011, 02:46PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I hope he can put together a solid season. It has to be tough playing under emotional duress, mixed with physical ailments under a media microscope.

Didn't Horcoff see a Sports Psychologist and then go on to have a good season (before shoulder surgery).

I'm rootin' for him.

Avatar
#20 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 08 2011, 02:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
John Chambers wrote:

I like Brule. I picked him as my star last year.

He's not going to be a top-6 forward in the NHL, but he battles for the puck like a wolverine, has a cannon for a shot, and is pals with Bono.

JC for one hopes he battles hard in camp, pushes some of the younger guys down to OKC, and at some point even finds some time playing point on the pp. I'm glad we traded Colin Fraser instead of Brule because old Gilles has much greater upside if he can bounce back.

And he's from E-town. What's not to like?

You know you had me tell he is pals with bono.

The way I look at it is the guy had one good season and was paid for it. It was also a season that coming into camp he was fighting for a roster spot. I think if people forget the whole putting up 40 points and forget about his contract that he could be a decent player for us.

Avatar
#21 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
September 08 2011, 02:52PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Here's hoping he can bounce back and score 10 - 12 with some energy in a bottom 6 role.

Could be a nice tweener like Jones that can move up and down the line-up when neeed.

Avatar
#22 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 08 2011, 03:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Robin Brownlee wrote:

I give Brule a lot of credit for talking about some off the off-ice issues that weighed on him. His being in and out of the line-up led to a lot of speculation something was wrong.

I wasn't comfortable asking Brule about the off-ice stuff -- especially bringing up the depression aspect and if it applied to him -- and he wasn't comfortable answering, but he was quite candid.

Brule's poor performance last season just didn't add up to me, based on what I saw in 2009-10, and this might explain some of it.

I wonder if what has happened this off-season is making guys realize maybe they should be talking about it?

Avatar
#23 db7db7db7
September 08 2011, 03:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Great article!

Avatar
#24 Wax Man Riley
September 08 2011, 03:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Good to hear that he feels that he is turning a corner. I think it was a great decision to see a sports psychologist to re-evaluate his frame of mind.

I wish him the best and it gives me even more to look forward to for this season.

Avatar
#25 Wax Man Riley
September 08 2011, 03:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think Brule will end up playing on the wing this year. With Lander and RNH in the mix, i don't see him fitting in at C.

Lander, I still believe, will start in the AHL.

Avatar
#26 Randy
September 08 2011, 03:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Can't see it. With Nugent Hopkins and Lander coming soon, Pitlick developing and Martindale moving onto the watch list the depth chart is working against him. The only guy in the middle he has any chance at all of challenging is Gagner, and given his history he would have to be a lot better than Gagner to stick around for long. Too bad really.

Avatar
#27 terry
September 08 2011, 03:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

it was a blessing in disguise that we held on to him instead of Fraser. he defn forechecks like a wolverine and has upside, he's a good bottom line center and has the ability to move up in the lineup. i hope he is healthy and is at peace with whatever family issues he was battling.

Avatar
#28 bobo
September 08 2011, 03:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin thanks for this. I've always wondered what happened to Brule last season and this sheds some light.

Avatar
#29 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
September 08 2011, 03:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Good thing here is that Brule has no pressure like he did last year coming into the new contract.

When fans do up a mock lineup, I bet you a bunch of them barely even have Bru in the lineup. He was the only guy on our team last year that had a devastating shot on the rush. MPS had quite a few "C(ogs)rest shots", Hall is the only one that likely has that shot in his repertoir. Brule is so awesome at the Stamkos-esque slapper when he's fading towards the boards on the left side, waiting for that one-timer and BOOM!!! Goooooooaoooaoaooaooaol!

With the physical game that he plays, he could quickly become the "RUDY" on this team.

Avatar
#30 Tha Legion
September 08 2011, 03:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I always liked the kid, felt if healthy he's stronger on rw than Omark, keep in mind I'm not the biggest Omark fan, but if training camp pans out competitively I'd hope to see

Hall Gagner Hemsky. Smyth RNH Eberle, Paajarvi Horcoff Brule, Eager Belanger Jones

Hortichuk Omark as extra forwards, feel like I'm missing someone agh that didnt format well

Avatar
#31 Chris.
September 08 2011, 03:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Archaeologuy wrote:

Though, I might hold a grudge if they start him at 4C and neither Lander nor RNH gets to be in the NHL this year.

If Brule plays better than those other two than he should be on the team. There is no point pushing players through their entry level contract if they aren't ready to outperform the Brule's of the world...

Besides, wouldn't it be hilarious to see Lombardi's face if Brule had a 20 goal season?

Avatar
#32 Duke
September 08 2011, 03:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Thanks for getting and writing this story Robin. It would be good for everybody if Brule had a good year, but especially for him.

Avatar
#33 common sense
September 08 2011, 03:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

He should try and emulate Peca's game. Mix confidence, improved skating and fitness and this guy might take the next step....or not.

Avatar
#34 pelhem grenville
September 08 2011, 03:38PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

...with all these issues both mental and physical is there any reason why he can't start in OKC and get back the mindset and confidence he refers to in this really telling interview?

...being an 'afterthought' in the fans eyes is going to be an all uphill battle for him this year...where DOES he fit is right...i'm assuming he needs to clear waivers [to go to the AHL] that may even get him in that place where it's 'the right circumstance' to be given a chance to bounce back...one thing though he needs all the good luck and personal strength he can muster to make it to where he wants to be as a person first then he can be the hockey player he knows he can be ... i wish him all the best wherever .

Avatar
#35 OilerLand
September 08 2011, 03:42PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Brule is done. He should take his money and focus on himself and forget hockey. Sucking isn't gonna help him.

Avatar
#36 oilsands
September 08 2011, 03:42PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
common sense wrote:

He should try and emulate Peca's game. Mix confidence, improved skating and fitness and this guy might take the next step....or not.

I agree, when he's playing well he can be a Peca/Dave Bolland type of player. I really hope he has a good year for us whether its at wing or center.

Avatar
#37 Rick
September 08 2011, 03:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Timely article Robin. Brule was starting to look like the forgotten man in the lead up to camp.

All things considered did you walk away from the interview with any kind of gut feel on if this was a case of a player knowing what the right things to say were vs a player that truly is ready to move forward?

It wouldn't be the first time a player was 'optimistic' about his health.

It would appear that he is going to be all he was two years ago and more in order to get out from behind the 8 ball this fall.

Avatar
#39 Westcoastoil
September 08 2011, 03:52PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

He's definitely the forgotten man in the F depth chart. It should be looked at as a positive thing that RNH, Hartikainan, Petrell & Lander have to step over another player to make it on to the roster

Avatar
#40 shanetrain
September 08 2011, 03:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Nicely done Mr. Brownlee.

I am a Brule fan for sure. Not sure he is going to get a fair shake in camp with A. Lander ready to devour his lunch.

Avatar
#41 Milli
September 08 2011, 04:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I don't know where he fits, but really liked his game 2 years ago. Also, I really think he is a good person, off the ice. Those guys I will always root for. And really, do we not have a need for a guy who can play physical, score some and has speed to burn? If he brings it, he'll have a spot.

Avatar
#42 Archaeologuy
September 08 2011, 04:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Chris. wrote:

If Brule plays better than those other two than he should be on the team. There is no point pushing players through their entry level contract if they aren't ready to outperform the Brule's of the world...

Besides, wouldn't it be hilarious to see Lombardi's face if Brule had a 20 goal season?

20 goals and more egg on Lombardi's face would be nice, but if I've learned anything about Steve Tambellini it's that expecting him to make a snap decision between RNH, Lander, and Brule is expecting a lot.

Avatar
#43 FastOil
September 08 2011, 04:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I also like Brule, and hope he can find a role in the league.

We can't keep all these young forwards, but it would be nice if a bunch covered the bet and had value in a trade - Martindale, Pitlick, Brule, etc. so we can fill the holes without creating another, and perhaps pick up better picks than hopefully we'll be seeing soon.

That would be success in developing players.

Avatar
#44 Dman09
September 08 2011, 04:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Sorry to say but I don't think it matters too much what he does this year. If he does have a good season I think the Oil will try to trade him and get a decent return. Worst case they don't resign him after this season. There are just too many other players trying to push their way into the mix and I think the Oilers would rather let Brule go than risk losing one of their young players that could turn out better.

Avatar
#45 jake
September 08 2011, 05:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I like Brule's game. I think he still needs work in the D-zone but I like his style.

If he can bounce back, it will be good for him and the Oilers, whether he sticks with the club, or as some good value in a trade.

Brownlee, what is your sense of how he relates to his teammates? What I read/hear, he is rarely mentioned by anyone else on the team (which most likely means nothing but..).

Avatar
#46 Craig1981
September 08 2011, 05:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Is he as nice of person as he seem to come across? Who was the most well hearted standup oiler we have had, btw?

Avatar
#47 Clarence Oveur
September 08 2011, 06:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I'm definitely a Brule fan, but wonder if he'll ever be the player that he was in 09-10. If he can stay healthy and find a place in the lineup (probably 4th line C), maybe he'll chip in a bit. He can win draws and plays a robust physical game, so maybe he catches some breaks with wingers like Jones and Eager?

It's worth giving him a shot, if he's healthy and focused on the task at hand. Sounds like he is, but we'll see. I'd like to think he'll bounce back and fill the 4C role.

Avatar
#48 stevezie
September 08 2011, 06:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think a problem he might face is he is better than a 4th line center, and that looks like the only open spot here. Oh well, start at the beginning and keep going forward.

Avatar
#49 gongshow
September 08 2011, 06:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I'm pulling for the kid. Love watching him on the ice. Throws in a chunk of money to help a little kid in need. Picks up hitchikers. If he A) stays healthy and B) is given a legitimate chance to start the season, I think that he shows well this year.

I must say that I was shocked the first time I heard 'Jill-behr' give an interview. I tot dat 'e must 'ave been oberdubbed wit an inglish accent, non?

Avatar
#50 Saytalk
September 08 2011, 07:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I thought Brule had the potential to be a decent 3rd line two-way center. Something which Cogliano failed to achieve during his time here. But with the injuries, off-ice issues and general lack of confidence, there is a lot working against him. Add in the fact that Belanger is signed for 3 years and Lander is on the way, plus being tossed around in the Smyth trade, it looks like Brule's days with the Oilers are numbered.

I hope he turns things around early this year and shows good health. At the very least, if he can pass another team's physical by mid-season, he could be traded for future considerations. It would be in his best interest to move to a team that can play him at 3C. For the Oilers, the future considerations could turn into a mid-round draft pick if he stays healthy.

Comments are closed for this article.