Yeah I'm free, I'm free fallin'
--Free Falling, Tom Petty
Gilbert Brule was a bit of a lightning rod amongst the voters here during the summer vote. Brule moved up from 10th overall to 8th on the back of Ben raising him from #17 to #6, and Scott from #17 to #12. I kept him at #13 but was very leery of that ranking, and with good reason.
This time around, Brule falls from eighth (and actually just a point out of a tie for seventh) all the way down to eighteenth. Ben dropped him back down eight spots, Bruce nine, Jonathan ten, Scott five and I dropped him nine spots.
Brule's fall off was not a surprise to some. Jonathan's five red flags article talked about the issues that would cause a regression, I talked about Brule's upcoming negotiations, and Tyler thought it best to trade Brule:
In short, he’s a guy who I’m not sure it makes sense for the Oilers to keep around. My thinking is that his value is unlikely to be higher than it is right now - Brule might seem attractive to a team that thinks its going places and likes his ES scoring from last year. If you’ve got a bad bet who is about to get expensive, unlikely to repeat his results and doesn’t seem like a fit for the top six moving forward, it seems to me like the time to sell.
If Brule wants north of $1,500,000 per season, plug in Linus Omark and send Brule packing. The Oilers have leverage, wasting it would be sad, but predictable.
Though he was looked reclaimed talent by the fans (read the vitriolic comments in response to Jonathan's article to understand more), the numbers knew better and Brule was bound to regress. He has. Jonathan wrote about his red flags and it was prescient. He pointed out the red flags as being Injuries, Shooting percentage, The Dustin Penner effect, AHL results, Points relative to ice-time. The biggest factor in his career-best season was the Penner effect. To quote Jonathan:
Gilbert Brule was a different player when he was paired with Dustin Penner. That pairing was plus-5, on the ice for 21 goals for and 16 against, and they outshot the opposition 147-133. Penner apart was a little worse (35 goals for, 32 against, outshooting 364-346), something I’d attribute to the fact that he was likely playing better opposition away from Brule. Brule fell off the rails without Penner around, going minus-10 (17 goals for, 27 against) and getting outshot 203-233. That disparity is not a good sign.
Without Penner playing pack mule for Brule, his numbers fell apart this season and look surprisingly like his previous NHL career. In fact, the table below shows that breakdown.
|Total w/o 2009-10||191||20||23||43||0.225||251||0.080||1.314|
In addition to a career year thanks to Dustin Penner in 2009-10, Brule has already missed has missed nearly 18% of his NHL career due to injury, another of Jonathan's red flags.
Brule needs to re-invent his game. He's got to understand his own zone, he's going to have to figure out the defensive part of this game and stop running around without the puck. If he can do that, I've previously compared his possible career to that of Dean McAmmond, and under-sized bottom four winger who had a long career. Linus Omark's performance has made Brule redundant. In fact, Brule should watch video of Omark to understand what he needs to change in his game to become successful. Omark is strong on the puck in the zone, a pit bull on the puck behind the net and while he doesn't throw hits, Omark, at least in the offensive zone is a far more physical player than Brule. He's not reckless like Brule his physical play is focused on gaining and maintaining control of the puck. Omark doesn't have the flashy shot that Brule possesses, but he's better in every other facet of the game.
Brule's second chance is fading fast, and it's a bit sad - Brule is a really good guy, and someone a team with some serious public relations issues should want to keep around. But they've already paid him a bit too much for his role and it's likely that he's not going to cover that bet without some serious shelter and a makeover.