If you’re still in knee-jerk, “blow it all up” mode nearly a week after the Bruins saw their season end at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens (having some problems of their own, down 2-0 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals), at least know the team’s brass is looking ahead without pushing the panic button.
“We fell short in the second round, which disappoints everybody, so we want to reevaluate where we think we could improve upon and look at that as opposed to major overhaul,” Bruins president Cam Neely said Tuesday at team’s year-end press conference. “I think when we have the regular season we had, especially the stretch from March in to April, that wasn’t luck. We were a good team and we still feel we have a good team and maybe need a few tweaks.”
According to owner Jeremy Jacobs, “This was sort of a tale of two seasons. One of them, I mean, we had the best team in the National Hockey League during the regular season and it was our expectation to carry that on fully and it didn’t happen. I have a great deal of confidence in the management. Obviously they put together a team that did perform the best, as I say the best in the National Hockey League. As they look to organize this going forward, I don’t think they are looking at a massive change. I think they are looking at tweaking it as opposed to doing any serious chance. I think keeping the organization together is one of their objectives and two is to improve on it.”
Other highlights from Tuesday’s press conference:
Neely on whether or not free agent Shawn Thornton would be back with the team: “Well, I still believe that we like the physical game and physical play which at times leads to dropping the gloves. But there’s always been a lot of talk, primarily with the media, about you know, ‘is fighting still necessary in our game?’. I think with the way the game’s played and how it is played and how physical it is, I still feel it is still part of the game. But where it goes, you see from like 70s, 80s, 90s, it’s a little different or probably still trend that way, yes.
“…we still have to sit down with our group and talk about the season and what our team will look like moving forward so we haven’t had that discussion just yet.”
Jacobs on his reported interest in purchasing the Buffalo Bills: “Well, I can’t buy the Bills, because I own the Bruins. That’s not a bad place to be. I kind of like where I am.”
Neely on the team not addressing needs at the trade deadline: ” I can speak to what we tried to do at the deadline. Not in detail, but with what was available and how we thought we wanted to add as opposed to add and subtract, we thought we had something in place but it was predicated on another team making a deal and it didn’t pan out. But again, we were going through that really good stretch of hockey and we thought we really just needed to add some depth and if a player with term became available, like the one we were trying to acquire, it would have been a bonus for us. But obviously I don’t think that is the full reason why we didn’t get past the second round to be honest with you.”
Neely on if speed was a determining factor in the series loss to Montreal: “Yeah, I think we’ve heard about speed in the first round against Detroit, we heard about speed against Montreal in the second round and I think on the back end we added some speed from previous years. We’re going to talk about what we need to do on the front end. I think there is no question that it is a faster game, and speed is something that is important in this game and we’re going to talk about addressing that.”
Neely when asked if the Bruins need to seek out a pure goal-scorer, and his evaluation of the Tyler Seguin trade one year later: “Well, I think we were maybe third in the League in goals-for, so that’s a pretty good place to be, and it spread out amongst the group, which is also a good place to be. I mean, you know obviously you can point to some of the games, where you say jeez if we had a pure goal scorer, we might have been in a different situation, but I keep pointing to that we didn’t play as well as we could have played, and maybe it’s something to do with Montreal, but I think a lot of it has to do with us. I think when you have that balanced attack, when you have – you know, we saw that stretch in March, if one line wasn’t going, the other two were, and we rarely just had one line going, and you see teams now where they have one line, they don’t really have the success that you have when you have multiple lines that can produce.
“Well, I mean, I don’t think anyone expected Reilly [Smith] to have the year that he had. We knew what type of player he could be, but it came probably quicker than we expected. Loui [Eriksson], I think he came in, and it was a difficult transition for him, and then he got hurt. We think he can be a better player, he’s proven to be a better player, and that’s our expectation, that he can be a better player. Saw [Matt] Fraser come in at the end of the year at the playoffs there. [Joe] Morrow we have in Providence, who is a really skilled defenseman that needs time to develop, but you know I mean, you can always look back at any trade, any transaction and say ‘what if.’ The deal is done, and we’ve got our players that helped us actually have the best record in the NHL in the regular season. We could have gotten more out of everybody in the playoffs, and I expect those guys to improve.”
Charlie Jacobs on the team’s confidence in the team’s leadership: “A tremendous amount of confidence in our both on-ice leadership and off-the-ice leadership. A lot of character in our dressing room, and it starts with Zee [Zdeno Chara], but listen – there are a lot of complimentary pieces, and when you consider Patrice [Bergeron] and Krech [David Krejci], and we may have lost something with Andy Ference but we picked it up with Jarome [Iginla]. And then there’s a lot of character and leadership, and they held each other accountable, and you saw in your exit interviews – they all felt as though they maybe didn’t necessarily play their best but they let the team down, and that meant more to them than, say, their individual stats. And I think that speaks volumes about the mentality in the locker room itself, and that’s what you aspire to have. In terms of our organizational leadership, I think with Cam [Neely] and Peter [Chiarelli] and Don Sweeney and Jim [Benning], they’ve done a great job of really trying to assemble a mixture of both veteran and some young leadership to bring us back to the promised-land, if you will. And you need that mix. You need the right mix. We maybe erred a bit, a little bit, in terms of having too many inexperienced defensemen. If you think about it, really only two of them – two veterans on the back line this postseason. But as my dad referred to, that will pay dividends as you progress moving forward. So listen, I have great faith in both aspects. I do believe we’ll be right back there. I expect that we’ll be back there. Stranger things have happened, but I hope we start right out of the gate where we left off in March, not necessarily at the end of April.”