Brule, Four Others Cut

The Edmonton Oilers have announced the demotion of five players on their official website: Gilbert Brule, Josh Green, Teemu Hartikainen, Ryan O’Marra and Ryan Keller.  Brule, Green, O’Marra and Keller will need to clear waivers before being assigned to Oklahoma City.

The departures of Green, O’Marra and Keller were widely expected. The demotion of Hartikainen is a little more surprising – he showed well at times in the preseason, after all – but isn’t a shock and won’t keep him from playing for the Oilers’ later in the year.

The decision to waive Gilbert Brule is more surprising.  Which is not, of course, to say that it was the wrong decision.  After a breakout 2009-10 season (though there were signs, even then), Brule was injured for much of 2010-11 and didn’t play to his previous level when he was in the lineup.  His performance in the preseason has been uneven at best, and flat-out bad at worst.  Particularly galling was the lack of discipline he showed, something that cost the Oilers’ repeatedly – most recently when Darcy Hordichuk’s third-period goal against Minnesota was waved off after Brule took a penalty well behind the play.

Still, it couldn’t have been an easy decision.  Aside from the facts that Brule’s been generous in the community and showed flashes of brilliance during his time with the Oilers, there will be long-term consequences to this decision.  Not only must Brule clear waivers on his way down to the minors (something that seems highly probable, given his inflated contract), but if he performs well in the AHL the Oilers must expose him to recall waivers in order to bring him back to the NHL.  That will undoubtedly be a factor they consider later on if they wish to recall Brule – unlike other players (O’Marra, for example), Brule would leave a significant cap hit on the Oilers’ books if claimed by another club.

Assuming that the players currently injured (Chorney, Fedun, Gagner, Smid) are not ready to play on opening night, the Oilers roster is now set for the start of the regular season.  That means that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Linus Omark, Lennart Petrell, Jeff Petry and Corey Potter have made the club out of camp.

  • @ Robin Brownlee:

    You have to feel for a guy who has suffered through what Brule has – I’m referring specifically to the physical injuries, because whatever his other problems last year they haven’t been explained publicly by anyone (and no, I’m not saying fans have a right to know that stuff necessarily).

    That said, it does seem clear that injuries last year were a major factor in Brule’s declining performance, and it also seems that shouldn’t be surprising given that they’ve hampered his development ever since Doug MacLean decided to keep him in the league straight out of his draft year.

    I don’t take any joy in what’s happened to Brule. I do think that all those people who thought I was nuts for even thinking about trading Brule were wrong – and not even so much wrong for supporting what turned out to be a poor decision, but wrong for being so sure of themselves that they weren’t even willing to consider some very reasonable indicators that Brule might not be as good as he appeared superficially.

      • What is being said, in most cases, is that Gagner has the most value of guys not named Hall, Eberle or RNH. We have needed a top 2 d-man for 2 yrs and packaging up Sam with a prospect (Teubert?) and a pick could get us a 1/2 guy we have so desperately needed since Lauren packed Chris’s bags in ’06. The only other player that might fetch that value is Hemsky, but I think he has more value here than he can bring in a trade. We are deep on forward and paper thin on defense BEFORE all the injuries came.

        • bazmagoo

          2nd line centres that can produce 50 – 60 points per year aren’t easy to come by in the NHL. While I agree Gagner COULD POSSIBLY have a high trade value, more than likely most NHL teams will need another year of proof to maximize his value. The Oil don’t currently have the most proven record of developing NHL ready forwards (2 30th place finishes anyone!), so I’m sure most teams are undervaluing our talent pool currently.

  • RexLibris

    I kind of wish they’d given that last centre spot to O’Marra, he seemed to really make the transition this year and understand his role. I’d also rather have seen Lander spend some time in OKC and dominate there first, but that being said I hadn’t considered that he’ll be sent back down once Gagner comes back and that waiving O’Marra now is probably safer than doing it later in the season.

    I guess this just shows why NHL coaches have their jobs and I have mine.

  • bazmagoo

    What really blows if O’Marra isn’t claimed off of waivers tomorrow is that not one of the pieces in the 07 trade for Smytty made the NHL long term.

    I know Alex Plante still has a chance, but honestly, I think he’s going to be another career minor leaguer with the depth that the Oil have coming up.

    I’m sure the Islanders are still laughing to this date that we took Robert Nilsson off their hands for them.

    So I guess we can officially say that trade didn’t benefit us at all..

    • bazmagoo

      God bless that trade, because it signalled the beginning of the end of Lowe as the GM. While I respect the man for who he is and what he has accomplished, his judgement was too skewed by emotion to be the GM of an NHL franchise.

  • bazmagoo

    Just listened to Tambo’s explanation of the current roster cuts and whatnot on the oilers website and I have a few notes in relation to what he said

    – Did find Potter to be a decent puck mover last night. Oiler d looked a little gunshy imo, almost like something terrifying happened recently ??? (perhaps less than 24 hours prior), so let’s not push the panic button quite yet.

    – His explanation of Brule and Hartikainen was spot on. Both need top 6 minutes to establish their game. Feel bad for Brule as he has already “established” (in the past) a game for being a speedy, forechecking hitter with some goals in his arsenal (ie. decent bottom 6 forward). Due to concussions, he more than likely would put his personal health at risk if he continued that type of game. My feeling bad for him ends when I remember the fact that he earned 3.7 million dollars over the last 2 years. Just saying…….

    – It’s possible/likely the oilers d is insufficient, but he thinks the offence can compensate somewhat. Here’s hoping we don’t overpay for stability on the d, because our forwards are true gold baby, true gold. Read a few blogs where it’s stated winning a faceoff is overrated (here’s one):

    Can not disagree more. Even though the game is at such a fast pace and moves very quickly, possession is critical to the success of any team. This is true in ALL sports, possibly the difference is more minute (mine – ute) in hockey. In my opinion, even a half percentage can make a critically important difference in the NHL. Belanger winning more draws and Ladner communicating in code (Swedish, and yes I’d put money on the fact that they will play together) will lead to more possession for the Oilers, which from the bottom 6 is something we’ve critically/seriously lacked in the past last few years (past 2 especially).

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ bazmagoo. -yes, the team certainly has been on an upward trajectory since Lowe moved from the GM chair, I’m really glad that happend.-

  • bazmagoo

    I wonder about the longterm effect of sending brawn and grit to the minors/waivers. The Oil are getting smaller and easier to play against. I really don’t like RNH and Hall’s chances of surviving based on the kind of hits their reckless moves set them up for in Vancouver. Eberle was next to invisible in Vancouver Saturday night when the head hits and elbows were flying. Tambellini is leaving these kids wide open for some crushing hits with very little back-up. I don’t like it.

    • Talbot17

      Not sure if you watched the game, but Van was lucky to get away with so many penalties and no goals against. Oilers speed can draw penalties, its just a matter of time before the chances start going in.

  • paul wodehouse

    …Brule should clear waivers imo and when he gets to OKC he’ll redefine himself sufficiently to begin a new career as a stellar AHL player …i wish him every success

  • O.C.

    McCabe is a terrible D man. I saw him on for 5 in a 6 to 5 loss once. Funny, CBC national broadcast didn’t say anything, as they were as guilty as anyone in trying to promote him as a star.

    That said, it’s a huge problem that players can’t get back in the show for another team when the team that has them in the minors can’t afford the 50% cap hit when they are claimed by another team.

  • O.C.

    Very happy for Lander. He gives a new dimension. Might have been the best in centre in camp. Even when playing with fire hydrants, he made the line responsible.

  • O.C.

    I don’t think that burying Brule’s contract in the minors is that big of a deal when it comes to the cap hit. It only becomes an issue if we try to recall him and someone else claims him, at which point we are only on the hook for 1/2 of his salary (and cap hit) then remaining, which at worst is $925,000.00 (1/2 of Brule’s remaining salary at $1.85M) if it happens before the first game of the season. This would come off the books at year-end (along with the $400K+ Nilsson buyout, and the first year of the Souray buyout at $2.4M) and we have the cap room to spare this year as it is unlikely that we will be adding any big salaries during the season.

  • Talbot17

    Lander is dynamic and leads by example. I think having himon the team will help MPV and Omark out a lot just because Lander is going to make them work hard if they are slacking. Renney likes Lander for his skills but i think he more so appreciates his leadership aspect a whole lot more than anything Brule would have brought as well.

  • It seems to me that Tambellini has done a phenomenal job a lowering our expectations.

    I am reminded of a certain Chris Rock bit about expecting praise for things you’re supposed to do. Why should he get credit for failing to make a mistake?

    Everyone is lining up to credit him for demoting Brule. He was supposed to demote Brule. It would have been ridiculous not to. What does it say about our expectations that everyone sighed with relief when he did what he was supposed to do?

    Then you have the people saying Tambellini can’t be blamed for failing to address needs through trades because he might have tried to trade but it was too hard.

    Making deals happen to improve the team is his job. If it’s too hard for him to make a trade we need to find somebody who can. You can’t excuse somebody from doing their job because it’s hard. You let them go and find somebody who can get it done.

    Looking back it is astonishing how far we have allowed them to lower our expectations. When it has reached the point where we pat them on the head for not making a mistake it has gone too far. We should be able top expect them to make the right decisions.

    • Clarence Oveur

      Considering this organization failed in horrible fashion to do this after 2006, I’ll take any positives I can get that Tambi “gets it” and is doing what is necessary to progress the rebuild and improve the franchise.

      I think he deserves credit for improving what has been an absolutely dismal organization. Gotta start somewhere, no?

      • These aren’t “positives” these are things we should be able to take for granted, ie. we have lowered expectations.

        I don’t want to celebrate the fact that he has finally demonstrated what should be deemed the minimum level of competency to manage a franchise.

        I don’t want a guy who took 3 years to learn the basics. I want a GM who outperforms of GMs, not one who barely meets minimum requirements.

        Truthfully, no matter what he does from here on out I will always have trouble trusting the man who thought signing Khabibulin to that contract was a good idea. People don’t suddenly develop common sense.

        • Clarence Oveur

          I understand your point, and if this weren’t a rebuilding phase I would agree entirely…but how can he outperform other GM’s when he is building from within and rectifying problematic issues that have plagued the organization for years?

          Again, you have to establish a foundation before you can go out and make the big splash…and although Smyth put Lombardi in a corner, I’d say Tambi won that trade by a wide margin. Wouldn’t you?

          • and although Smyth put Lombardi in a corner, I’d say Tambi won that trade by a wide margin. Wouldn’t you?

            Smyth won the trade for him.

            As for the rest of it – you seem to be suggesting that he doesn’t need to be as good at his job while rebuilding than while trying to win a cup. On the contrary, I think that rebuilding requires a better GM than winning with a good roster already in place. “Outperforming” doesn’t necessarily mean winning trades all day – it means doing a better job.

            A minimally competent GM is not going to outperform anybody, and it frustrates me when I read people who are over the moon because Tambellini has finally made a couple of supremely obvious decisions, purely because in contrast to his previous performance it seems brilliant.

            Why do you think some teams are perpetually rebuilding while others manage to climb out of the basement?

  • @ Tim:

    Post a link and I’ll respond. I’m not going to comment on your recollection of what I said three years ago.

    Besides which, I do point out when I’m wrong – on Jordan Eberle, for example. I was also wrong on the Horcoff contract, something I’ve mentioned more than once.

    The question is whether we learn from our mistakes or not. Horcoff, for instance, was playing a completely different role in the year he got his contract than he has since – and because he was sheltered that year and ran up his shooting percentage, he looked a lot better than he was. Those are things I allow for now that I didn’t in 2008.

    It’s not about just keeping score. It’s about looking back and examining what reasoning held up, and what reasoning didn’t.

    Khabibulin’s contract is a similar example – injuries, market value, and post-lockout record were three key areas where that signing was a failure from Day One. When I bring it up, I do it less to gloat than to point out that people should be adjusting their thinking based on the mistakes they made at the time. I got the Khabibulin contract right in no small part because I was wrong on Mathieu Garon – it changed the way I look at goalies, but it obviously didn’t for many.

  • O.C.


    …no one allowed wants to comment on the possibility that TSN is maybe, possibly, in obvious negotiations in each media market for a local presence, and it’s unlikely they would be buying a news (CHED) channel?