A months-long pause might not have been enough to shutter the 2019-20 season, but for Jake DeBrusk — the NHL's "Return to Play" (RTP) campaign might as well be a clean slate at this point.
Sure, the stakes now are certainly higher than anything experienced from October 2019 to early March. But after spending most of the spring holed up back home in Edmonton, it's only natural DeBrusk spent some of his club's sabbatical reflecting on a campaign still not fully seen through — a line of thinking usually reserved for the offseason.
That time away from the rink — and the regular grind of NHL hockey — was largely viewed as a detriment leading up to the league's RTP initiative, with only injured players such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Jake Guentzel and Adam Pelech truly benefiting from such an extended stoppage.
But DeBrusk, often the optimist, tried to make the most of the league's unprecedented stoppage.
The primary takeaways from his quarantined musings? An acceptance of a regular-season campaign often marred with inconsistency — and a commitment toward not letting said struggles carry through to this revamped postseason.
"I didn't really necessarily love the way I was kind of heading into this pause," DeBrusk said back in July. "I'm my biggest critic and I'm hard on myself so I obviously understand what I can bring ... We watched video and stuff throughout the year, but seeing it pretty consistently in different kind of games, good ones and bad ones. I mean, it's more so a mental state for me. ... When I am consistent, it's kind of my mindset going into certain things no matter what's going on around me and, and limiting distractions as well. It was kind of good for me to take a step back and look and understand what I can bring to this team understand the person that I am and just kind of roll with it. I mean, just bring my J.D. vibes and just kind of play my game. I think that's the best way I can help this team.
Entering Phase 4 with a clear head should do DeBrusk some good, with the third-year winger ready to enter a pivotal playoff run — one that could hinge on the 23-year-old's ability to consistently bury chances down low.
He may not have plenty of time to showcase the lessons learned over this break – at least not with his usual playmaker in the middle.