Boston Bruins

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 26: Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 26, 2021 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Bruins 6-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk doesn’t seem to be having fun.

And this point, it’s hard to blame him. Called out publicly and scratched at various points in 2021, producing at the worst clip of his career (and at an especially bad clip since the trade deadline), and relegated to fourth-line duty (though that’ll change with Charlie Coyle out of action Thursday) in recent days, there seems to be a dark cloud hanging over DeBrusk’s 2021.

“The games aren’t fun when you’re struggling,” DeBrusk admitted.

You have to imagine it’s the same for Zoom conferences, too, with DeBrusk’s Thursday morning meeting with the media beginning with a pair of curt answers totaling 30 words in all. If you know DeBrusk at all, you know how alien this feels. He’s always been the kind of personality that’s constantly smiling, laughing, and cracking jokes. DeBrusk is the kind of interview that can bounce from analysis to rap music to breakouts to goal celebrations and video games all in a span of 74 seconds.

But, again, 2021 has been miserable for the fourth-year NHLer, and he knows it. Perhaps that’s why he’s not interested in talking about playing on a new line, dissecting his game’s recent progression, or where his personal confidence is at. He’s already said everything he possibly can and it hasn’t worked, and it’s beyond time for the play to do the talking for him.

I’ve been struggling, and it’s not fun when you’re struggling,” DeBrusk noted. “It’s one of those things that you try to find little positives and things like that and just move on from there. It’s not the end of the world. Obviously, I’d like to do a lot more with what I can do. But at the same time, it obviously hasn’t been meant for me, so I understand that my time will come.”

Perhaps one of the hardest parts of the 2021 season for DeBrusk, and every player for that matter, has been the isolated nature of the season. Players are chained to their hotels and buses on the road, and have been told to exercise extreme caution when at home, so with no escape, slumps can weigh on you more than they would in any other season.

So having that patience, all while having no true escape in a sense, can be trying. Just ask Chris Wagner, who has gone through doghouse stints and on-ice struggles of his own this year, and opened up about those exact issues back in March.

“Sometimes I go home and you don’t really see anybody and you just think about what you could have done better or if you’re playing tomorrow and all that and it was getting to me, for sure,” Wagner admitted back then. “I’m sure a lot of other guys are going through it in the whole league, really. I think you got to have a little sympathy for yourself for what you’re going through. We’re still pros, we got to show up to the rink and play our game, but at the same time, you got to be aware of how you’re feeling day-to-day and kind of mentally check yourself so you can be the best you can be when you get to the rink.”

For DeBrusk, the support has come from both his father and the teammates he still wants to help on their quest for a Cup.

“I lean on my dad a lot, obviously,” DeBrusk said of where he’s turned during this down year. “I don’t really lean on too many people outside of the game. You know, it’s one of those things, we’re in isolation anyway. There’s lots of people here in the organization. My teammates obviously have been the ones keeping me going here. It’s one of those things that you want to do it for them, the room, and you want to obviously be there for them. And they’ve been there for me.

And I’ve been with this group for four years now [and] we’ve been through a lot, so they understand that there’s ups and downs and, you know, everyone’s different. There’s different types of things that go on. It’s just a matter of, just being ready for your opportunity and doing what you can because I know I can help this team.”

Thursday is another opportunity to restart that process, too, with DeBrusk elevated up a line (and to a sizzling line at that) for a get-right game with the did-not-qualify Rangers.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.