GILBERT BRULE: WHAT NOW?

Where does Gilbert Brule fit in the plans of the Edmonton Oilers? More to the point with the NHL trade deadline approaching Monday, does Brule fit in the plans with the Oilers?

I thought I had the answer to that after the 2009-10 season Brule put together with the Oilers, a campaign in which he scored 17-20-37 in 65 games. The way I saw it, Brule had finally broken the prospect-suspect-prospect cycle he seemed to have fallen into since being selected sixth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the Vancouver Giants in the 2005 Entry Draft.

I have to say, knowing what I do about Brule as a person, knowing how he’d been rushed along and mishandled by the Jackets as a teenager, I was happy to see the kid start to put things together. I was sure he was on his way to meeting the lofty expectations people had of him on draft day. Obviously, I was mistaken.

Brule has taken just as many steps back this season as he took forward one year ago. His next game — the latest word from the Oilers is he won’t play against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver tonight — will be just his 38th of the season.

Brule’s inability to stay in the line-up has him right back in the suspect category.

ILLNESS AND INJURY

Brule, still only 24, played every one of the Oilers games through Dec. 16 except one. Brule had a brutal start, but he was in the mix. Since then, he has played just four games, the last coming Jan. 6 against the New York Islanders, when he scored his sixth goal of the season. All told, he has tallied 6-2-8 in 37 games.

He’s been out with what the Oilers have listed as an "upper body injury." Before that, it was "illness." At the best of times, I’m leery of the NHL’s edict that injuries be cloaked in broad generalizations like that.

Damn lies much of the time, history shows. How many upper body injuries have been sprained ankles? How many lower body injuries are bad shoulders? Why the subterfuge? And what is illness? It could be anything from a garden variety case of the flu to eczema, and anything in between no? But I digress . . .

The bottom line — no, it’s not his shooting percentage — is Brule hasn’t been healthy or durable enough, whatever it is that ails him, to follow up on the promise he showed last year. He’s right back at square one, maybe a step back of that given that he’s a year older in the middle of a youth movement. So, now what?

WHAT’S NEXT?

With his ability to skate, his shot and the physical edge he plays with despite his stature, Brule has shown he has the attributes to be a top-notch third-liner. Maybe top-six in a pinch, if he’s spotted in. Wing or centre? That’s another question. Either way, despite his mediocrity on the dot, he has some tools to work with.

On top of all that, not that it matters to people shelling out good money for tickets, Brule is a decent, earnest young man, along the same lines of Andrew Cogliano. Brule, you might remember, donated $10,000 of his own money last summer to help Maddox Flynn, the boy who is flying back and forth to New York to have surgeries to remove tumours from his face. Brule didn’t do that for PR purposes. He did it to help.

In the end, though, from a hockey operations perspective, it doesn’t matter if Brule is a fine you man with a big heart or a jerk who could not care less about the city where he draws his pay cheques.

What Brule has to do, starting with his very next shift, is re-establish where he fits, if he fits, in the Oilers pecking order. Is Brule a part of the plan moving forward or has he been left behind?

I pull for the kid, but I don’t know.

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

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Well first thing I would’ve done is waive Strudwick a week ago when Brule was ready and play Brule. You could’ve say Jacques over Brule and at least gotten Brule some action.

    Need to try play Brule as much as you can and see if come the summer someone takes a flyer on him.

    I don’t think he is a part of the future of this team and I don’t think he should be.

    Like having too many smurfs, having too many injury prone players doesn’t get us anywhere either.

  • I agree with you on the subterfuge RB. If there is any secret less valuable than why a player on the 30th place team in the league is out for a few weeks I can’t think of what it is.

  • Robin, I agree with everything you said and I’m pulling for Brule too. He seems like a solid guy and I respect that about him. I have liked what I’ve seen of him and he has flashes of brilliance, but like you mentioned he is inconsistent and not healthy enough.

    C’mon Brule pull it together man! You’ve got at least 2 guys pulling for you!*

    * I know how it sounds! :0

  • I thought Brule’s health problems were public info, but I guess not. The word is it isn’t your garden variety flu, unfortunately (although that would be obvious given how much time he’s missed). I won’t speak to what it is, because my info is from a 3rd party. But it’s disappointing, anyways, and for the long term, off and on if what I heard is true.

    Also, I think it’s good that the league/GMs keeps injuries hush hush. I don’t think there is really any reason why Joe fan or media needs to know what is wrong with a player. And teams just have to do their due diligence when trading for / signing someone.

    • well I’m hoping for the best for the guy. But, having said that, the last thing we need is Fernando 2.0 sitting in sick bay for the majority of his contract.

      My best wishes health wise go out to Brule.

      • Exactly why I’m not going into detail about it. I even alluded to that in my comment that it might not be true. I trust the source, but I’m not really focused on it. The way I see it, whatever the cause of Brule missing handfuls of games this year, it’s not good for the team. And like someone else mentioned.. I’m not really looking for a Pisani 2.0 case, as cold as it sounds. I do wish him all the best though.

  • I’m wondering how the PA will react to a guy being told to stay on the IR even though he’s ready to play because that’s been the case with 67 for awhile now, hasn’t it?

    On the ice I think the guy has classic 10 cent head syndrome and he’s gotten as far as he has without really having to think the game and/or make adjustments. The kid doesn’t mind the rough stuff and he’s a great skater and he could still be effective player if he’d turn himself into a checker.

    But he scored some points last year so that seemed to be his role but as soon as the Oilers decided they were committed to letting all of 4-14-91 make the 2011 club then they should not have resigned 67. He’s a guy that needs to be placed in a certain situation to produce and/or be worth a roster spot and that wasn’t going to be afforded him this season.

    Off the ice I was also swayed by the donation he made this summer and just like 46 I wish the best for him and hope he finds a career somewhere.

  • VMR

    We’re all hoping for the best for Brule but it was another bad signing by Tambellini. 2 years at 1.8 for a guy who had one good season was too much, surprising after they did so well with the Cogliano negotiations.

  • truddy

    I was truly disappointed this season with Brule. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t more time before the trade deadline to get a better look to see if he should be traded or not. Brule was probably my favorite player on the roster last year, it was a shame his progress didn’t continue into this season.

  • truddy

    Mr. Brownlee,

    Forgive me if I’m wrong (I’m going strictly off the top of my head) but didn’t Brule have one of the better face off percentages on the team this season?

  • stevezie

    I like Brule and hope that things work for him, but this shows why its better to have more youth than you think you need when rebuilding. You never know when a “sure thing” isn’t going to work out.

  • Milli

    I like his game and love his character. I still hope it works out for the kid. I also think we now need stability in coaching. As in good coaches for years to come so players know what to expect.