Found money can make your day — that wrinkled $20 bill you find in a jacket pocket when the seasons change or in a sock drawer that you’ve forgotten all about.
While that unexpected cash won’t make or break your weekly budget, at least it had better not, found money comes in handy, and it sure beats another pinch of pocket lint on laundry day.
Having had a chance to chat with both of them, I’m wondering if Gilbert Brule and Cam Barker might turn out to be a little bit like that forgotten chunk of change for the Edmonton Oilers this season.
After something of a breakout 2009-10 season, Brule arrives at training camp this season as a bit of an afterthought in the wake of a disappointing and injury-plagued 2010-11. Where does Brule fit? Glance at the depth chart and it’s a reasonable question.
As for Barker, who has gone from being the third overall pick in 2004 by the Chicago Blackhawks to being bought out by the Minnesota Wild last summer, who can count on him? Again, fair question.
What if they’re found money?
SOMETHING TO PROVE
Brule, still only 24, seemed to be on his way after scoring 17 goals in 65 games two seasons ago. I certainly thought he was. Some observers, like Jonathan Willis, took a look at the advanced stats, namely a fat shooting percentage, and warned off a drop off.
Sure enough, it happened — seven goals in 41 games last season. That (and other brutal projections) killed some of us in the Lucky 13 Pool. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t see a spate of nagging injuries or the off-ices issues Brule revealed to me Sept. 8 sending him sideways. Was that in the numbers? I digress . . .
With those issues being dealt with and physically healthy again, Brule has looked like a different man on and off the ice leading up to and during camp since he arrived in town. We’ll see how being of healthier mind and body translates on the ice.
Barker, meanwhile, checks in with a one-year contract worth $2.25 million after being told to go away by Minnesota. Injuries, most notably a bad back, limited him to 52 games last season. It’s been a long fall for Barker, drafted behind only Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2004.
Like Brule, Barker talks about returning to health and the opportunity to prove that the 40-point season he had in Chicago in 2008-09 wasn’t a flash in the pan, a fluke. As with Brule, we’ll see.
I’m a sucker for an underdog story, so I find the cases of Brule and Barker compelling. Both entered the NHL as high-end, first-round picks amid great expectations and both have struggled mightily to live up to their draft day press clippings. Might they bounce back? I think so.
The thing is, like that found $20 in a jacket pocket, it would make for a nice surprise to many if they do, but the Oilers certainly can’t count on it to pay the bills.
With an influx of young talent competing for roster spots, Brule is these days looking like a fourth-liner or part-time press box sitter, if he sticks around at all. He’s not the future-of-the-franchise guy the Columbus Blue Jackets thought he might be on draft day.
Unless Ryan Whitney’s ankle keeps him out of the start of the season, it looks like Barker will start as a third-pairing guy who gets some time on the power play. He’s not being counted on as the go-to guy it looked like he might become after his big season in Chicago.
That said, if Brule and Barker have it in them to bounce back, it will most certainly help in what optimists hope will be at least a modest push for a playoff spot after back-to-back 30th-place finishes.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.