Jake DeBrusk can skate like the wind. He shoots the puck pretty well, too.
And you can add tap-dancing to that skill set.
DeBrusk met reporters on Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena for the first time since rescinding his trade request under which he played all of last season. He never fully explained his reasons for the request, though it was easy to assume that a big part of it was that his biggest issue was with former Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy, who had found it necessary to sit the young winger on occasion.
That belief was only fortified when, after Cassidy was fired, DeBrusk and his agent let GM Don Sweeney know that he no longer wanted to be traded.
That the change behind the bench had a lot to do with his DeBrusk’s change of heart seemed so obvious that it didn’t need to be spelled out, and DeBrusk passed on doing so.
“Hey, it’s been speculated enough, I think,” said a relaxed DeBrusk. “You guys know I see stuff and obviously that’s an easy answer. It’s one of those things that we can talk and talk about and I respect that you guys that it’s your job to ask those types of questions. Obviously it’s one of those things that’s interesting and it’s a hot topic on why I even asked for a trade, but I am just looking forward to this year. I think it was in Montreal (when he signed a two-year extension on trade deadline day) that I was looking forward to not having to answer those questions anymore. It’s one of those things where that’s in the past and this whole summer’s been focused on getting right and getting ready for the season and that’s kind of how I view that question.”
DeBrusk did credit his teammates for sticking by him despite the trade and not letting the issue be one that poisoned the dressing room.
“At the end of the year I said I’d talk to my family and think things over. I think the biggest thing, honestly, was the support I got from the guys in this room last year,” said DeBrusk. “I think that was one thing where obviously there was a lot of stuff coming my way, for obvious reasons, and the guys in this room really kept it tight and kept it as one. That’s something I’ve always loved about this team. I love the boys, and also the city and everything else. This is what I know, this is what I’m comfortable with. It wasn’t honestly that hard of a decision to make. And I’m also building off last season.”
After his career appeared to go off the rails during the Covid season of 2020-21 when he had just 5-9-14 totals in 41 games, DeBrusk got off to a decidedly mediocre start last season. Cassidy called him out for a half-hearted backcheck after the B’s loss to the Rangers in the annual Black Friday matinee and he was scratched for the next game. It was after the scratch that his trade request that was issued the previous summer became public.
While it looked like DeBrusk’s Bruin days were dwindling, Sweeney chose not to trade him just to get rid of him. And after managing just seven goals through February 17, something clicked in DeBrusk. It didn’t hurt that he was eventually moved to right wing on the Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand line. He wound up with 25 goals on the season and his game was back on track, though he wouldn’t rescind the trade request until after Cassidy was sacked.
Now it looks like he has an enviable spot in the lineup on Bergeron’s right side while it appears his 2015 draft classmate Pavel Zacha will handle the left side while Marchand recuperates from hip surgery. While it didn’t look like he was built to play his off wing in his first forays earlier in his career, he feels good about playing on he right side now.
“I didn’t have the best start over there, going back a couple of years now. But I think it gave me confidence to bounce back and find my game again,” said DeBrusk. “That was my goal at the beginning of the year and it wasn’t pretty at times but we got there and obviously playing that position on that line at times when things were rolling, that’s something that gave me a lot of confidence going into the season knowing that it’s there and it’s not gone forever. It makes you want it more and it makes you want to do it consistently every night.”
He’s exchanged a few texts and spoke with new coach Jim Montgomery in the offseason and expressed a kind of nervous excitement for the fresh start that the change represents for him. But he also knows that the onus is on him now to reach for his ceiling.
“I’ve got to prove that I can build on that year and build on the second half,” said DeBrusk. “And with the new coach, new regime it’s time to show what I’ve got. It makes you excited again.”
And that should be a good thing for everyone involved.
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