Jake DeBrusk revealed that his struggles this season were as much mental as anything.
The Bruins winger spoke to reporters for his exit interview on Friday, and opened up on his struggles to withstand outside noise, which appeared to compound his problems on the ice. DeBrusk’s points per game, Corsi rates, and average ice time have declined each season since 2018-19. After just 14 points in 41 games in 2020-21, and getting benched in Game 5 of the Bruins’ playoff series against the New York Islanders, the 2020-21 season felt like a bottoming out.
It’s gotten to the point that DeBrusk’s issues had to be psychological as well as physical. He’s admitted that the noise, whether from media, fans, or elsewhere, has affected him, and it’s part of the changes he’s looking to make for next season.
“I need to revamp some stuff, obviously,” DeBrusk said. “There were a lot of factors that went into this year, some things that I can control and couldn’t control. I dealt with a lot of negativity as well. Something you just have to learn.
“I’m a big boy and I can handle that. Just became a little bit of an easy target. My haters had a lot to say this year. But it’s one of those things where, like I said, I just have to revamp some things with training and a different mindset. My mindset, it’s in an interesting place right now. Every year it’s obviously different. It’s disappointing, emotions are still high, I’m disappointed in myself. … I’m looking forward to this year. I’ve got to prove a lot of people wrong.”
The age of the iPhone and social media has made it easier than ever for professional athletes to connect with fans and document their lives. It’s also made it easier than ever for followers to voice their displeasure, often directly to the athletes themselves, and callously so. It’s a particular problem for younger people who have grown up with the technology. Multiple studies have linked excessive smartphone usage to a recent rise in anxiety and depression among both teens and adults.
DeBrusk isn’t necessarily dealing with actual anxiety or depression. But it’s obvious, now, that he’s listening to the noise, rather than ignoring it.
“Just one of those things where you could just feel it,” DeBrusk said. “Not really pointing out anyone. The one thing that I did learn is you obviously play for your teammates and for the people in this room. That’s all I really look for now. It’s kind of doing it for the guy beside you.”
Clearly, DeBrusk will need to ignore the noise going forward. It’s hard to blame anyone in their 20s for struggling to avoid social media, hot takes, and general negativity. But it’s the only realistic avenue to making the noise go away. And Boston is notorious for its outside noise.
DeBrusk is due for a $4.85 million salary and $3.675 million cap hit in 2021-22. That’s a tad expensive for a bottom-six winger who scores less than a half-point per game. But DeBrusk is only two years removed from scoring 27 goals in 68 games, so he’s obviously capable of better, and he knows that.
If DeBrusk stays in Boston, once he blocks out the noise – and focuses on what he can control, which is what he does on the ice and in the Bruins locker room – perhaps he’ll get his young career back rolling in a positive direction.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.