This is not the season anyone envisioned for Jake DeBrusk.
The young winger was entering the first season of a two-year prove it deal. He’s been a solid playmaker at the NHL level that can put up well north of 40 points in a season, but too often inconsistency has hampered him.
This has been a challenging campaign for DeBrusk. He has just one goal, which came on the power play, four assists and has been shuffled up and down the lineup. Things came to a head Tuesday night when Bruce Cassidy decided it was best to healthy scratch him against the first-place New York Islanders.
Like Cassidy (and certainly DeBrusk), Don Sweeney just wants to figure out how to get the 24-year-old right.
“I think Jake takes all of it to heart, as all players do,” Sweeney said Wednesday. “When you lose ice time, I think that’s the greatest lever to pull with a player at the National Hockey League level — whether that’s within game or actually missing games. You look for responses from really any area if you’ve addressed it through video and coaching and through practice, through ice time and hit the reset.
“Clearly, we understand that Jake’s not where he needs to be: He recognizes that, takes ownership of it. And we have to do everything we possibly can to put him in a situation that he can work his way out of it, and work is a big part of that.”
DeBrusk had been a staple on the second line with David Krejci, but this season Nick Ritchie has fared far better in that role. Still, DeBrusk is too valuable a player to write off given how good he can be.
Time will tell, but DeBrusk responding well to his night off would be best for all parties.