Jake DeBrusk has fans at TD Garden, but his detractors made themselves heard during Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Red Wings.
Scattered boos greeted him when he touched the puck. Fans lobbed a few digs and catcalls his way.
DeBrusk didn’t do much to help himself, or the Bruins, in his first game since he publicly requested a trade. He registered one shot and one hit in 10:25 of ice time.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney confirmed before puck drop he has been trying to trade DeBrusk “for quite some time,” given the 25-year-old winger’s dissatisfaction with his situation here.
“I’m not overly surprised that this eventually came out,” Sweeney said. “I’ve been in the know [about] this for quite some time. We’ve been trying to look at hockey trades that would help the Boston Bruins.”
TSN said at least eight teams reached out to the Bruins about the 2015 first-round pick (14th overall).
Sweeney said he isn’t under pressure to find a deal. “When it presents itself for both teams, to find what’s best for each team is when it’ll happen — if it’ll happen,” he said.
Typically, a team would sit someone in DeBrusk’s situation to protect their asset. The Bruins do not have that luxury. They are down two left wings in light of Brad Marchand’s three-game suspension and Anton Blidh’s upper-body injury. Marchand will not return until Dec. 8 in Vancouver. Blidh’s status is unknown. Additionally, AHL Providence is on COVID lockdown, so no help from the minors is available.
After spending Sunday’s win over the Canucks in the press box — his first healthy scratch of the season — DeBrusk was back in the lineup. Taylor Hall said DeBrusk addressed the team before the game.
“He just said, ‘I love you guys. This is something in my career, I’m at a crossroads.’” Hall said, noting that DeBrusk was popular in the room. “He’s not a distraction at all.
“That’s the culture, that’s the motto that we have: whoever’s in, you’ve got to play well. We expect Jake to play as well as he can, even under the circumstances.”
DeBrusk’s two-year, $7.35 million contract expires next summer. He is earning $4.85 million in salary this season.
After DeBrusk produced career lows with 5 goals and 14 points in 41 games last season — taking multiple healthy scratches — coach Bruce Cassidy waited several weeks to have his end-of-year meeting with the winger because things were, in the coach’s words, “too raw.”
Last summer, the Bruins extended Hall for four years and $24 million, ensuring DeBrusk would start camp no higher in the lineup than No. 3 left wing.
After reporting for camp, DeBrusk said he was “clean-slating it,” and his outlook was positive.
“Every year’s a new start,” he said. “It feels like it’s back to the NHL again. That’s why I love playing the game. That’s why you work your whole life — to play in this league.”
He has one goal in the last month, and a 3-3—6 line in 18 games. Several times over the last few seasons, Cassidy has knocked DeBrusk’s work away from the puck, and his effort level. Most recently, DeBrusk drew criticism after his low-intensity backcheck led to the Rangers scoring a go-ahead goal on Nov. 26.
“I’d like to see him impact the game with his foot speed every night in some way, shape, or form,” Cassidy said. “Whether it’s forecheck, attacking the net, penalty kill, whatever the case may be. That’s kind of where we’re at.
To be effective, Cassidy said, DeBrusk must impact the game with his skating speed, and “we’re starting to see that drop-off,” Cassidy said. “So it’s a reminder of, ‘Hey, bring us the effort.’ And hopefully the production happens. But we need that.”
Captain Patrice Bergeron said the team won’t be affected by the situation.
“People ask for trades,” Bergeron said. “Things don’t change. We expect Jake to be accountable like the rest of the guys. It’s the same thing. The approach we have on the ice is play together and play for the Boston Bruins, play for the crest, and that’s what we expect out of Jake.”