Yes, the title might be a little harsh. In reality, there are plenty of Bruins fans that would have shipped Jake DeBrusk out already for pennies on the dollar. If you believe in earlier rumors, the Bruins have already attempted to trade the 2015 first round pick. But General Manager Don Sweeney has denied those rumors.
There are two sides of the fence here. One, there are those that believe JDB is just not a good hockey player and that the Bruins should move him. Two, there are those that believe he was a victim of circumstance last season and that he should be given the upcoming season to redeem himself. There are very few that are in the middle. It’s a pretty cut and dry stance by Bruins’ fandom.
At issue here is mental health and whether the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic caused the winger undo stress during the season. With Jonathan Drouin speaking out about the issues he had in dealing with anxiety and the insomnia that comes along with it, the topic has reared its ugly head again.
As someone who suffers with mental health issues myself, I can tell you the issue is real. But nothing I can say will convince you. I am twice JDB’s age and I too live alone and the affect the pandemic, lockdown and isolation had on me caused me to hit rock bottom. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine it would be tougher for a 24-year-old youngster. The National Hockey League’s return to play protocols couldn’t have made things any easier for DeBrusk either. In some ways, they were tougher rules than the Governments imposed on us regular people.
Drouin’s disclosure of his struggles has some fans calling for DeBrusk to do the same. I have a newsflash for you: discussing the issue with the media does nothing to help the issue. And then there is the comment made by Coach Bruce Cassidy:
It appears that Cassidy was at the least, willing to shoulder some of the blame.
With training camp officially hitting the ice today, it all ends now. No more excuses. The lockdown is behind us. The strict NHL guidelines are behind us. For the most part he’s able to do what he did prior to the pandemic. It should all be 100% about playing hockey at this point.
I see two changes the Bruins made this offseason that should have an impact on DeBrusk as a hockey player, in a positive way.
The first is naming Chris Kelly as an assistant coach. Just like he was as a player, Kelly won’t hesitate in calling someone out when he needs too, but he’ll do it behind closed doors. He will be tough on DeBrusk and will expect him to work as hard as he did on his game when he was playing. You would always find Kelly and Captain Patrice Bergeron being the last two players off the ice after practice. You’d also find the pair working with the youngsters.
It won’t all be tough love from Kelly. He’ll be approachable. He’ll know when something is going on in a player’s head that is affecting his game. And he will help DeBrusk (or any other player) work through it.
The second thing is the signing of Nick Foligno. It is expected that DeBrusk will be playing on the third line with Foligno. The latter is a former captain with excellent leadership qualities. But he’s a workhorse who is willing to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game. If Foligno’s work ethic doesn’t rub off on DeBrusk, he will most certainly have a word with him. It won’t be tough love from Foligno. He will teach young Jake the right way to play without the puck. And that is one of DeBrusk’s biggest issues with his game – his play without the puck.
DeBrusk’s two-year, $7.35 million contract expires at the end of this season. He’ll become a restricted free agent in the offseason and arbitration eligible. His qualifying offer will be $4,410,000. If DeBrusk wants to see that total or more on his next contract, he’s going to have to put up numbers like in his second NHL season.
The excuses end today.
It’s time to shape up or ship out.