March 24, 2014

Gilbert Brule

Never pick up hitchhikers. That is solid advice we've all been advised from early on in life. Yet that didn't stop Gilbert Brule of the Edmonton Oilers from lending a hand to two walkers caught in a sudden Vancouver rainstorm. It turned out the hitchhikers were U2 lead singer Bono and his personal assistant. Brule was rewarded with backstage passes for the Edmonton show a couple of nights later.
That was one of the most unique moments in Gilbert Brule's short NHL career. Unfortunately his career lasted only 299 games, far fewer than was expected of him. Yes, Gilbert Brule certainly wasn't the first high draft pick to not pan out in the NHL. Nor was he certainly the last.
The lowly Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Brule 6th overall in 2005 following a fantastic junior career with the WHL Vancouver Giants. He was praised for his strong skating and willingness to play physically despite his modest size. Some even considered Brule to be the 2nd best prospect in the draft, behind Sidney Crosby.
But for a variety of reasons he suffered through his fair share of adversity preventing him from achieving his potential. He was rushed into the NHL at age 18 by an incompetent Columbus Blue Jackets franchise, and suffered a broken collar bone and a broken leg in his rookie season. The injuries kept coming, and despite some formidable skills (he had great hands and played an aggressive game) he was never able to put everything together.
After just two seasons in Columbus the Blue Jackets traded Brule to his hometown Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Raffi Torres. After a season of apprenticing mostly in the minors, Brule seemed to make steps in the right direction under coach Pat Quinn in the 2009-10 season. Brule played a nice role on a line with big Dustin Penner. Brule chipped in 37 points in 65 games, and earned a 2 year contract.
Unfortunately for Brule things started going downhill again from there. He would miss half of the following season for a variety of injuries including a concussion. By the beginning of the 2011-12 season he was released after losing his job to rookie Anton Lander. 
The Phoenix Coyotes claimed Brule off of the waiver wire, hoping to find a lost diamond in the rough. He would playing sparingly in parts of the next two seasons.
When the Coyotes tried demoting Brule to the minor leagues early in the 2013-14 season he decided he had had enough. Choosing not to live his life out of a suitcase he chose to retire from the game of hockey.
Brule, who was the 2004-05 CHL Scholastic Player of the Year, was troubled off the ice. With his confidence fractured he was known to seek help from sports psychologists. He later came out with allegations that he and his father had a broken relationship. Brule claimed his father was stealing money from him.

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