Welcome to Opposite Day here at The Copper & Blue. The crew here thought it would be a great idea if I wrote the overview for Gilbert Brule's entry in our Top 25 Under 25, and thought it especially amusing because I've ranked him lower than anyone here. For once, Ben likes a player not from the St. Albert Saints, thinks he's a good guy, and he doesn't do the writeup.
Gilbert Brule is a great person, that much is clear. He went above and beyond for little Maddox Flynn, not only donating $10,000 to go towards the kid's surgery, but he flew to New York to be with the family prior to his second surgery. Most professional athletes are just regular guys, some athletes are jerks, and a few are something much worse, but Gilbert Brule is something else - he's an outstanding person with a willingness to make a difference in his community. Players like that don't turn up every day, and his value to the team should increase when his value to the community, the fans and the organization is considered.
Ben moved Brule up eleven(!) spots to 6th, and Scott moved him up five sports to 12th. I left him in 13th overall.
My reason for ranking Brule lower than anyone else stems from a number of questions about whether his 2009-2010 season was sustainable or not. Previously I've talked about Brule's numbers away from Dustin Penner, and showed that without Penner he was no better than any of the other younger core. Jonathan outlined Brule's five "Red Flags" and discussed why fans should temper their expectations for Brule in 2010-2011. Scott outlined all of these arguments in his opening arguments in the Gilbert Brule arbitration case, and came to the same conclusion that Jonathan and I did: we should not expect Brule's performance in 2009-2010 to be the norm.
It's not that I don't like Brule. As others (Ben) have said, Brule has tools, there is no denying that. But as Jonathan points out, he's got a history of injuries because he plays a reckless style in a small body. In order to score his 17 goals last season, he had to double his career shooting percentage. He's rugged, but not a penalty killer. He's got a great shot, but not skilled enough to be a threat on the power play. He plays center, but doesn't have high-end faceoff skills. He's scrappy, but not a defensive presence. He reads like a small bottom six role player to a lot of people - similar to Dean McAmmond.
I do understand why Bruce and Jonathan continue to rank Brule so highly (I'll throw out Ben's schizophrenic ranking system on this one) though. Brule is still young, he's a very good skater, he plays a physical game, he's got an explosive shot, and he's got some pedigree from his career in Major Junior. In his draft year he was compared to Trevor Linden. Doug MacLean even compared him to Steve Yzerman, but that's Doug MacLean. Brule seems like a much smaller version of Chris Kunitz if everything is working for him and even his SB Nation profile projects him as an aggressive scoring forward.
Steve Tambellini did a very nice job in signing Brule to a two-year deal with an annual cap hit of $1,850,000 - the deal gives the Oilers a player with a chance to outplay his contract. I think it's a slight overpayment, but given the bizarre restricted free agent contracts that we've seen this off-season, this seems to be a value deal. Brule will be given every opportunity to succeed, as he's either going to be on a second minutes line with Sam Gagner or he's going to get third minutes as a center, both of which should help his counting numbers greatly.
Next up, I talk about the greatness of Vancouver hockey.