Things were a bit frosty between the Boston Bruins and Jake DeBrusk last season.
In what was the worst season of DeBrusk’s NHL career, the 24-year-old bounced around (and in and out of) the Boston lineup, opened up about what an awful year it was, and admitted that he heard the outside noise a bit more than you’d like. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t afraid to call out DeBrusk throughout that horrible, no good year, and even Cassidy admitted that the sides would need some time apart before they discussed the future.
The sides found that time during an offseason that kept DeBrusk in Boston for an extended spell, and seem to be on the same page ahead of the on-ice start of 2021 training camp on Thursday morning.
“We had a good talk about some of the things that didn’t allow him to be at the top of his game away from the rink,” Cassidy said Wednesday. “The COVID protocols affects people differently [with] what they can and can’t do. Jake was one of those guys that being by himself was a little tougher on him. So we discussed some of those things, how we could help as the staff, and how it was probably on both of us to reach out a little more. I think in today’s game with today’s athlete, there has to be a little more of that. And so I think we both held ourselves accountable in that regard.”
With a fully vaccinated Bruins team and staff in town, the COVID protocols are not expected to keep DeBrusk stuck in hotels and isolation this season. That alone helps. But the communication aspect is certainly there, and in the best way possible, too, with both DeBrusk and the coaching staff holding themselves accountable for any missteps in 2021.
“[We’ll] open the lines of communication better and that may bleed into the on-ice performance and that’ll take care of itself,” Cassidy said. “So at the end of the day, the message is the same: How [DeBrusk] can help the Bruins win. That’s what we ask of every player. So I won’t share any more about the specifics [of their meeting]. But those are a couple areas we touched on, both off the ice and on the ice, and Jake looks like he’s ready to go.”
But that doesn’t mean that all of DeBrusk’s issues are gone. With Brad Marchand still atop the left-wing depth chart and Taylor Hall re-signed to a long-term deal, DeBrusk will begin the year as the team’s third-best left wing. And he’ll do that with a new center dishing him the puck, with David Krejci out of town and Erik Haula currently considered the favorite for the B’s third-line center gig should Charlie Coyle prove capable of handling second-line duties.
“He’ll have some new linemates,” Cassidy, who began the 2021 postseason with DeBrusk in a fourth-line role and saw limited success with DeBrusk on Coyle’s line at various points throughout the year, admitted. “So he’ll have to find some chemistry.
“But at the end of the day, I think the message stays the same: you be the best version of yourself, and I think your ice time will take care of itself and you’ll complement anybody you play with.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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.