Having kept strict radio silence for the past week, we have been alternating between amazement that the Oilers are this close to the ceiling of the salary cap and dismay that the expectations for the team are so low going into next season. Other than oscillating between these two frames of mind and watching every single moment of Big Brother 11, like many we have just been sitting around waiting for news to emerge from the Oilers camp that someone has addressed one of the handful of holes going into next season and waiting for something to get excited about.
Doldrums of summer
Right now at this very moment, Nikolai Khabibulin is 43 days older than when the Oilers first signed him and Dustin Penner is probably looking at the readout from bathroom scale in his solid gold house and thinking “that can’t be right.” Sam Gagner is probably kicking it out at some cabin in Ontario and bidding a bittersweet farewell to his 2009 summer romance. Dozens of other Oilers are probably wishing that Heatley had come to Edmonton after all so that the focus would be off their upcoming seasons and they could quietly come to camp under the radar. But we all know that will not be the case now don’t we?
We are starting to believe Steve Tambellini when he says that this is the team the Oil are going to go with for next season and wish we could build some sort of time machine to either fast forward to the start of Camp, or alternatively go back in time a month and whisper “don’t do it Steve, we hear he has the swine flu” into Tambo’s ear as he tried to put the finishing touches on the Heatley deal.
But complete organizational standstill aside, there are still some interesting things we are looking forward to seeing unfold next year.
And one of them is Gilbert Brule
Last year Willis and yours truly droned on and on and on and on about this here Gilbert Brule, embarking on a monumental 4 part series about the guy, which we both immediately regretted publicly committing to onsite. “Four parts on Gilbert Brule?” we lamented via email to one another, “why on earth did we commit to THAT?” We won’t try anything so ambitious this season, but we will start looking for things to be moderately excited about going into Camp.
For some reason we still hold a strange soft spot in our heart for #67.
We remember when we first heard of Gilbert Brule. We were on a road trip to Vancouver with a bunch of the boys and our Dutch Friend used Gilbert Brule as his person in a game of 20 questions. Of course no one in the car but the Dutch Nemesis had ever even heard of Brule at this point (the year being 2002) and he defended his pick of a super shady personality by regaling us with tales of Brule and his dominance as a Vancouver Giant. After our road trip ended. Brule was later drafted 6th overall in 2005 by Columbus, compared repeatedly to Sidney Crosby, then injured repeatedly in his 3 seasons in Columbus.
That was then, this is now
Now that the Oilers have signed Brule to an additional one year deal, we can’t help but think that if there was ever a time for Brule to emerge as a bonafide NHL player it would be this season. Expectations are low, others on the team will be taking the heat and a hole in the lineup exists that Brule could fill.
Quick question: Is anyone harboring large expectations of this Oilers squad going into the new season? Thought so. Having said all of that, aren’t these the same Oilers that seemingly turn on the jets every time we collectively underestimate them? Thought so too. For a player like Brule, who has often stuggled under the weight of his massive potential – a season like the 2009-10 campaign may be exactly what he needs to turn his career around.
Somewhere Brule has been training this offseason and getting himself ready to come to camp and produce knowing that he has no long term contract to fall back on or even any guarantee that this won’t be his last shot at playing in the NHL. And we for one are looking forward to this level of effort from a guy that used to be considered a sure thing as an NHL star. Yep, we are looking forward to that and perhaps asking Willis if he wants to go halfers on a four part series about the career outlook for Colin McDonald.
Is it October yet?