The officially-upon-us collapse between the Boston Bruins organization and 2015 first-round pick Jake DeBrusk is hardly a surprise.
Basic math told you this day would come sooner than later.
Even with both the Bruins and DeBrusk trying to put the past behind them just a couple of months ago. In the final year of his contract (and with a qualifying offer worth just under $5 million facing the Bruins at the year’s end) and behind both Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall on the B’s long-term depth chart, it would’ve taken a true return to yesteryear for DeBrusk to be on anything but borrowed time in Boston.
A Sunday night scratch from Boston’s lineup only took the impending split off the side streets and threw it into the left lane of the highway, with DeBrusk shooting the Bruins before they could shoot him (again) and officially requesting a trade. A trade request that was confirmed by DeBrusk’s camp and the Bruins.
But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
If this is indeed the end between the sides, the Bruins will be selling DeBrusk at his lowest value, and that’s saying something. But, he was called out publicly once again, and the entire league knows he wants out. The 25-year-old has also totaled 20 points since the start of last season, which sits as the 262nd-most among the 337 forwards with at least 50 appearances over that span. That’s a far, far cry from the winger the Bruins were unwilling to include in a 2018 deal for Ryan McDonagh or the 27-goal scorer the Bruins had riding on the left wing of their second line in 2018-19.
DeBrusk’s value has never been lower, and it won’t suddenly jump up a level now that he’s demanding a fresh start.
And this has been a bothersome trend for the Bruins in recent years.
Now, it’s obviously worth noting that it’s rarely in a team’s best interest to trade a player when their value is actually high, as that typically means that they’re producing at a level that equates to organizational happiness. But the Bruins’ repeated low-selling on their homegrown talent has become nothing short of maddening.
This has been noticeable when it comes to forwards, too.
Danton Heinen, who in 2017-18 had the best scoring season by any rookie since Sergei Samsonov, fizzled out to the point where the best move for the Bruins was to trade him a one-for-one for Nick Ritchie. Two years before that, Frank Vatrano, unable to find his fit in Boston, was traded for a third-round pick and has since scored 69 goals in 243 games with the Panthers. That’s the third-most goals among all Florida skaters over that stretch, and those 69 goals would be the fourth-most among all Bruins over that span, trailing only David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand. Not nice.
Even a trade that the Bruins won, with Ryan Donato shipped to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle, came with Donato’s stock plummeting all the way down to Providence after the Bruins followed up on his strong 2018 both internationally and down the stretch with limited ice-time and a demotion down to the minors the following season. Perhaps Donato fetches you more before subjecting him to 34 games (eight of them featuring less than 11 minutes of time on ice) in 2018-19.
Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Alex Khokhlachev — all of whom were at one point considered top prospects or close to it — all stuck around long enough to lose any and all trade value and eventually left for overseas action. Or, in other words, for nothing that helped you like it could have had the Bruins maximized their potential return as prospects.
Wanna go back even further elsewhere? 2012 first-round pick Malcolm Subban toiled in the minors long enough for the Bruins to lose him for nothing via waivers. (The same likely would have happened to Daniel Vladar in 2021-22, so… progress?)
Most recently, you can only guess what would’ve happened to Anders Bjork had Taylor Hall had an interest in going anywhere other than Boston, and the Bruins didn’t swing a deal with Seattle to lead them to someone else besides Jeremy Lauzon.
There’s no denying that the Bruins bag-hold with the worst of ’em.
Factor that in with the drafting misses that plagued the Bruins in the mid-10s and and it’s no wonder why the Bruins find themselves in this spot. The development up front has been stagnant, and the players who have escaped the outright ‘bust’ label but failed to show they’re keepers have rarely, if ever, been leveraged into something to truly improve their Cup chances.
This trade involving DeBrusk, when it inevitably comes through, is unlikely to be anything different.
That, for a team with as many needs as the Bruins, is a gigantic problem.
A calendar year ago, DeBrusk could’ve been a legitimate piece utilized to help you upgrade a defense that lost Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. This year, maybe during the summer when the sides weren’t on good terms, he could’ve been part of a larger package to address the Bruins’ center issues. Now? Your guess is as good as mine. But it stands to reason it won’t be that.
And to be here this early is doubly frustrating because it doesn’t feel like the Bruins tried all their options.
Yes, the stats were staring us in the face. DeBrusk was sent to the press box with one goal in his last 13 games and with a Black Friday backchecking effort on the game-winning goal against that left a lot to be desired. Part of that is certainly on him, perhaps more than ever before given the Bruins’ need to gut games out. But for all the struggles, DeBrusk still ranked as the team’s seventh-highest scorer, and was generating 8.29 individual scoring chances per 60 minutes of five-on-five (the fifth-most among Bruins forwards with at least 100 minutes played). And that (for the most part) was coming with Erik Haula, a player whose game had been deteriorating at a faster pace than DeBrusk and another healthy scratch, as his center.
Another shake-up — especially with Jack Studnicka in the minors and waiting for another chance at center and Tomas Nosek providing solid fill-in work when summoned to the third line — may have done the Bruins more good in the long term than sending DeBrusk back to the doghouse. Especially when the already-rocky relationship between the parties told you that such a move likely would’ve driven the sides closer (or beyond) the point of no return.
Instead, the Bruins will now search the market for the right return on a player who at the end of day will almost certainly leave us saying that he should have netted more.
On the ice and on the trade market, it turns out.
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.