Bruins’ DeBrusk At Crossroads After Difficult Postseason

NHL: Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins

(Photo credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

There is no doubt that Jake DeBrusk is a Boston fan favorite, known just as much for his infectious off-ice personality as his puck-handling skills and scoring touch on the ice. Still, it was hard to ignore the fact that DeBrusk was a proverbial ghost in the last three rounds of the team’s 2019 playoff run.

Two issues arose in the first round of the playoffs that may well have contributed to DeBrusk’s noticeable decline in production, and both stemmed from the same incident. DeBrusk was the victim of a Nazem Kadri hit that shook the 22-year-old Bruins right wing and resulted in Kadri being suspended for the remainder of the Toronto/Boston series.

Although DeBrusk would return to game action in the series against the Maple Leafs, he later revealed that he had battled throughout the ensuing three rounds of the playoffs with concussion symptoms stemming from the Kadri hit. DeBrusk also said he was forced to delete the social media apps from his phone because he and his family were receiving death threats from Toronto fans who felt DeBrusk was not properly penalized for his role in the Kadri incident.

Even though it seems extenuating circumstances were at play, the fact remains that DeBrusk was quiet for the remainder of the postseason, contributing to the mediocre play of a much-maligned second line. Now, DeBrusk is heading into the final year of his contract, he will be a restricted free agent after the 2019-2020 season and needs to produce to maintain his spot on the second line and to convince the Bruins that he is worth a longer-term deal.

DeBrusk had a solid 2018-2019 regular season, scoring 27 goals in 68 games played. If he can continue to score goals at that pace, and it is quite possible that he would have potted 30 goals this past season if he had not missed 14 games, Bruins management should be happy enough with his output to offer him a new deal when his contract runs out next year.

That being said, DeBrusk contributed 42 points in the 2018-2019 regular season, one fewer than during the 2017-2018 campaign, which he finished with 16 goals and 27 assists. Although DeBrusk’s goal total increased from season to season, he had just 15 assists this past year, a decline of 12 from his rookie-year assist total.

Perhaps the decline in assists can be partially attributed to the fact that DeBrusk played on a line with veteran center David Krejci, who plays a pass-first game, and a revolving door of right wings. DeBrusk himself spent some time in the 2RW slot, although he struggled to produce playing his off wing.

It stands to reason that team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy are going to expect DeBrusk’s, or any young player’s, overall production to increase each year. In DeBrusk’s case, that did not really happen in the 2018-2019 season.

It’s quite possible that injuries, line changes, and the off-ice issues experienced during the Toronto series all combined to make this past season an exception to the norm for Jake DeBrusk. However, if he does not return to form in the upcoming season, the team will have a difficult decision to make regarding his future in Boston.

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