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Oilers put Brule on waivers

The Edmonton Oilers have placed centre Gilbert Brule on waivers with hopes of shipping him to its...

The Edmonton Oilers have placed centre Gilbert Brule on waivers with hopes of shipping him to its AHL farm team in Oklahoma, along with four other players. (JORDAN VERLAGE/QMI Agency Files)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

EDMONTON - When he’s at the top of his game, Gilbert Brule is a fearless and dynamic talent with speed, grit and a world-class shot.

Unfortunately, it seems like the top of his game is located on a greased flag pole, and every time he closes in on his potential he loses his grip and slides back down.

Plagued by an endless array of maladies — flu, ankle, stomach, concussion and whatever other elements conspired to derail his progress — Brule only made it to the starting gate 41 times last year and 65 the year before that.

Unsure if they can count on him any more, and with young and promising options behind him, the Edmonton Oilers have decided to move on.

They placed the 24-year-old centre on waivers Sunday for the purpose of sending him to AHL Oklahoma City.

“We need to see the consistency in his game,” said general manager Steve Tambellini, who wants more than flashes from his players. “He’s got a great shot, can play with good edge, we just need that consistency. He needs to get his game back.”

Brule worked on the mental part of his game last summer, spending time trying to iron out his confidence issues with a sports psychologist, and was looking forward to a fresh start with the Oilers. Now, a former first-round draft pick who scored 169 points for the 2004-05 Vancouver Giants is now all but starting from scratch.

“I think he needs to get games in,” said Tambellini. “He came in in really good condition, worked hard, he just needs to play games. I want him to relax and get lots of minutes and be put in important situations — last minute, big draws, important power plays.

“If he does clear, he can play top nine minutes in OK City and get his game back.”

The Oilers actually closed the book on Brule last summer, offering him to Los Angeles in the initial Ryan Smyth deal, but the Kings balked when their due diligence suggested Brule wasn’t healthy enough to be sent to the AHL.

It’s been a tough stretch for the kid who made international headlines for picking up a hitchhiking Bono in Vancouver last summer.

Brule turned down an interview request Sunday but Tambellini said he took the news reasonably well.

“I think he’s been very professional. There’s just a lot more depth right now and there’s competition for ice time and roster spots. That’s a part of a team getting better.

“He was fighting for a spot on the bottom part of our roster and he’s used to playing a lot more minutes than what was probably going to be available. If he does clear it’s a good thing that he gets strong top-nine minutes. He needs to get playing.”

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Teemu Hartikainen’s demotion is more like an investment in his future. They’d rather he be playing top-six minutes in the AHL than six minutes a period in the NHL.

“Hartikainen is probably going to go down there and play on our first line,” said Tambellini. “From a development standpoint I don’t want him sitting here playing eight minutes a night on the fourth line.

“We had a really good discussion — he needs to go down there and dominate as a power guy so that when he does come he’s ready to take on quality minutes. There’s nothing wrong with taking people when they’re ready to do what they do best.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/sun_tychkowski


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