Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports

Jake DeBrusk finding perfect response to coach, critics

Ty Anderson
December 21, 2017 - 2:03 pm

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s messages have had no problem getting through to Jake DeBrusk.

When Cassidy sat DeBrusk as a healthy scratch for the first time in his career back on Nov. 11, DeBrusk responded with two goals and six points in his next five games. And when Cassidy cut DeBrusk’s ice-time to a season-low 7:43 last Saturday against the Rangers, feeling that the 21-year-old was not playing a stiff enough game to warrant minutes, DeBrusk again answered, with two goals and four points in two games since.

“It’s something that is kind of tough to explain,” DeBrusk said of his bounceback games. “You want to play the same way every night, but other nights don’t go your way. I find that whenever I have a night that isn’t going my way, I feel it’s need a respond well. There’s a desperation factor, and I’m trying to put that in every single game. I don’t like getting benched. Nobody does. especially at this level, everybody knows it; You hear about it, and you have to talk about it, and I don’t really like talking about it.”

“Well, you want your message to get through as a coach or you’ll be out of work,” Cassidy said of his approach with DeBrusk and the response. “I think he’s learned to respond to that, and that’s how a player-coach relationship develops. Some players less so, [but] others enjoy that, they like to be pushed and challenged. You just need to figure out how much, when, and what tool to use. But I’m happy with the way he’s responded.”

But it also helps that Cassidy's sometimes public messages are not the first or last to make their way to the first-year NHLer.

It was just a couple of years ago that DeBrusk was first introduced to the NHL spotlight, and the challenges -- sometimes in public -- that come with it. Especially in a Twitter Age where everyone’s a far-too-easy ‘@’ away from direct contact with one another.

“Pretty much right after the draft, my phone was blowing up, and it wasn’t all that great,” DeBrusk, drafted with the No. 14 overall pick in 2015 and part of a three-pick party that was almost universally slammed by pundits and fans at the time, recalled. “Obviously when you lose guys like [Milan] Lucic and [Dougie] Hamilton, it’s understandable.

“So when you asked me if [outside noise and criticism] affected me, I said no because I got introduced to it pretty quickly. Even going through failing our fitness testing, it blew up everywhere. All my friends were sending me pictures, making fun of me, kind of joking around, but it kind of gives you that thick skin. I don’t even really tweet that much, I just see when I get tagged in something. We all do.

“But half the time it’s coming from an egg, so you can’t take it too seriously.”

At the same time, though, there’s no doubt that some criticisms have hit a personal point with DeBrusk, such as the idea that he was not the right pick for the Bruins, or that they made a mistake by picking him over somebody such as the Isles’ Mathew Barzal.

“Obviously if someone was to come up to you and say, ‘You shouldn’t be writing for your newspaper’ or whatever, you’d take it personally,” DeBrusk admitted. “At the same time, I don’t go looking for that, because there might be more out there that I can handle.

“But even with the things I do see or are asked -- I remember getting peppered pretty good before that Islanders game -- going into the game, I was just focused on that [game].”

It was in that game that DeBrusk, blissfully unaware, came through a third period that included the game-winning goal on a straight-up beautiful spin-o-rama effort that fooled every Isle on the ice.

It's enough to suggest that DeBrusk did understand the pregame talk and Twitter storylines -- and read all the should-have-been pieces trying to tear him down -- and that these challenges are indeed a source of power for the rookie. But similar to the fossil fuel found deep beneath his hometown, the affable winger doesn't consider outside criticisms or media storylines a sustainable energy, nor does he want to consider it the go-to to get him where he wants to be. 

“Maybe it does give me that edge, I don’t know, but I don’t try to look into it too much because then I don’t want to depend on people coming at me,” said DeBrusk. “I gotta find that [motivation] by myself, and hopefully prove them wrong.”

“When he plays well, we all look good,” Cassidy said of DeBrusk. “Let’s hope we find a level where there doesn’t need to be as much of a challenge, it comes from within the room, where he just knows, ‘Hey, this is what a pro does every night.’”

In a room thankfully devoid of incoming messages from Twitter eggs.

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