When the NHL trade deadline passed Monday, Jake DeBrusk — despite a months-long trade request — was still a member of the Bruins.
DeBrusk, 25, has 15 goals and 11 assists for Boston in 58 games. Before the trade deadline, he signed a two-year extension to his contract worth $4 million.
On Wednesday, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy shared his thoughts on DeBrusk in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Touch and rich.”
“I can’t speak for him, but obviously when we signed Taylor Hall he’s a left winger, just like Jake. You have [Marchand] in front of him, Taylor in front of him,” Cassidy said. “Did it block his path? We were open to having him play on the right side. [Pastrnak’s] there, but there is another place. It didn’t go so well last year, or the year before. This year is going well. We moved it with [Bergeron] and [Marchand].
“He did a good job there. So maybe it had something to do with him being a little more comfortable here,” Cassidy added.
Part of DeBrusk’s request would have concerned a deteriorating relationship with Cassidy.
“We talked about our relationship,” Cassidy admitted. “I like Jake as a person. He’s a good guy. He’s low maintenance, he’s a good teammate. My problem with him has always been pushing him, holding him accountable, a player of type second effort. Some players react differently to that than others, so I had to adapt, and so did he.
“Right now we’re both Boston Bruins and he’s played well for us, to be honest with you, and we’re happy to have him,” Cassidy said. “He’s a good hockey player and he can help us win the Stanley Cup.
In November, Cassidy decided to use DeBrusk as an example for the rest of the veterans on the team, benching him in favor of younger players for a game against Vancouver (the Bruins won, 3-2).
“He wasn’t happy to be out in November, and I understand that, both him and Erik Haula,” Cassidy explained. “We just decided to go in a different direction with younger guys who had maybe worked hard in training. The team was not doing well. They turned out to be the two we chose [to sit], so I know it was not suitable for a veteran, I understand that, but I have to do what is good for the team and I always will. So I can look back and say, ‘Should I have done that? Should I have done this or that? I did it. We usually watch what happens next. We won a few matches, so the message was sent, and sometimes it’s also for others. “Hey, I could be next, if I want my place in the lineup, I better dig here.”
“There are a few different reasons why you do this. It’s not always exactly on the drive,” Cassidy continued. “[DeBrusk] I just became a guy that I chose, and at the end of the day it went [his trade request] then public. So we worked on some things, obviously got to where we are now, and here we are. So there is no point in looking back. We’re looking forward to trying to win a Stanley Cup now with the group we have in the room, and he’s part of it.
Looking even further, beyond the current season, Cassidy remains uncertain about the future of DeBrusk’s Bruins.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen this summer,” Cassidy said. “It will be up to him and his representative and [Don Sweeney], but he can be a good player for us. We all recognize it, and it’s been the last, I’d say 6-8 weeks. He digs and that makes us better.