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Stauffer Stuff: Roster Moves

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
Gilbert Brule

Nobody ever said life was going to be easy and perhaps no player in the Edmonton Oilers organization knows that better than Gilbert Brule.

A phenom in minor hockey the star-crossed Brule has dealt with the death of his sister when he was a child, and he recently admitted that “family issues” arose during a difficult injury and illness-plagued 2010-11 season.

After a break-out 17 goal campaign in 2009-10 Brule only got into 41 games last season, in the process becoming a bit of an afterthought as a top six forward with the arrivals of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi.

On Sunday, Brule, who saw action in three pre-season games, found out he was being waived, with the purposes of being sent to Oklahoma City.

The Oilers made the right decision here.

With 2011 #1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins illustrating on a nightly basis that he has the defensive awareness to support his gifted offensive game the Oilers have added to their skilled young top-six forward corps.

And Anton Lander totally outplayed Brule and for that matter Ryan O’Marra as well in competition for the fourth line center spot.

The play of RNH and Lander has not been lost on their Oilers teammates, who have been raving about the two throughout pre-season.

Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney recently said Nugent-Hopkins reminds him of Pavel Datsyuk and thinks Lander will be a more skilled version of Samuel Pahlsson who was the shutdown center for the 2007 Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks.

Brule on the other hand now looks to pick up the pieces and find his game in OKC.

The 6th overall pick form the 2005 NHL Draft has the physical tools. He is quick, has a great shot, possesses natural offensive instincts and is courageous but he needs learn how to process the game and become reliable.

There were times last season that the window of opportunity opened for Brule, but he was either not healthy or incapable of gaining the confidence of the coaching staff to receive significant minutes.

As a result his career has stagnated, which is frustrating to watch because he has a good soul.

Gilbert is the type of player you want to cheer for, one of the good guys. He doesn’t give you much in an interview but when you really sit down and have a conversation with him it is genuine.

For now though Brule has to focus on getting his game back on the rails for Todd Nelson, and he should receive significant top six minutes on a Barons team that will have several forward options up front.

If Brule can do that do not be surprised if he resurfaces quickly in the NHL, if not in Edmonton than somewhere else, as his 925,000 cap hit on re-entry waivers coming up is far more attractive than paying 1.85M off of waivers going down.

One thing that will help Brule is if he has an advocate supporting him.

Things were far from perfect in Pat Quinn’s one-year tenure as Oilers Head Coach, but Quinn got through to Brule, believed in him, and as a result Brule had his best season in the NHL.

Brule might need a similar-type situation to help him succeed down the road in the NHL.

The Other Cuts:

Teemu Hartikainen is still a big part of the Oilers future and it is my belief that we are looking at a Johan Franzen/Thomas Holmstrom-type player down the road.

A steal as a 6th round pick in 2008, the Finnish forward provides the Oilers with some much needed size up front for the future and may have made the team had the organization not re-acquired Ryan Symth.

Hartikainen is great at protecting the puck, but he needs to move it more quickly. Teams were sending in a second man to strip him of the puck when he was engaged in one-on-one battles.

Nonetheless Teemu is a stone cold lock to play down the road in a top-nine forward role.

OKC Head Coach Todd Nelson said the Barons now have eight players that can play center on the farm with the additions of Brule, Ryan O’ Marra and Josh Green.

O’ Marra, the 15th overall pick in 2005, has improved his compete level and first step quickness and may still carve out a roll for himself as a fourth-line center one day.

I must say Camrose native Josh Green is the consummate professional. In my opinion he had a very strong camp and gives the Oilers some fourth line depth on the wings.

Ryan Keller came as advertised. The former captain of the Calder Cup winning Binghamton Senators, Keller is a better all-around player than either Alex Giroux or Brad Moran who were the key AHL signings by the Oilers organization a year ago.

Keller also endeared himself to the Oilers organization when he stepped up and played defence after the team lost Taylor Fedun, Taylor Chorney and Ladislav Smid to injury in Minnesota last Friday night.

Barons Sign Triston Grant

Three weeks ago I wrote that the Oklahoma City Barons would likely need a little muscle to help ride shot gun for some of the young skilled forward prospects that the Oilers organization has on the farm.

Veteran AHL tough guy Tristan Grant has been signed to a PTO and will be given an opportunity to earn an extended stay with the Barons.

The 6’2”, 215 pound winger played the majority of his junior hockey with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL and has spent the last six seasons in the AHL.

Grant has seen NHL action with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators and fans might remember a spirited scrap he had with Zack Stortini at the start of the 2009-2010 season.

Bob Stauffer is the Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” on the Oilers Radio Rights Holder 630 CHED

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