VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli sympathizes with Mike Sullivan.
The Bruins' coach remains in limbo as Chiarelli continues the interviewing process for the person he feels is the best fit behind the Boston bench.
Chiarelli, who remains under the employ of the Ottawa Senators as assistant GM until July 15, said the course has not run smoothly given the restrictions he is under as a result of a complicated league-imposed agreement brokered to satisfy the interests of the Senators and Bruins.
``We're trying to do our best to get it done as soon as we can," said Chiarelli. ``I'm under a lot of constraints."
When Chiarelli interviewed Sullivan June 6, he told the coach he planned to make a decision in about 10 days. Yesterday, Chiarelli said he wasn't sure when the situation would be resolved. Even if he decided to make a change, he had hoped to have a coach in place by today's draft. Contrary to multiple sources, however, Chiarelli said he has not ruled out keeping Sullivan for the final year of his contract.
``I know Mike is getting frustrated, I know that," said Chiarelli. ``It's a difficult situation but it's something I have to work through. I have to make the proper decision. I'm just trying to get through it. I feel for Mike because he's hanging out there, but I tried to be as clear as I could in saying it's a process I have to go through. It's a unique set of circumstances that have never happened before."
Chiarelli received a reprieve from Ottawa GM John Muckler when Muckler told him he could interview anyone here this weekend. With virtually the entire hockey world in town, it has made Chiarelli's life easier. Prior to this weekend, if he wanted to interview a candidate, that person had to fly to Ottawa.
``I'm doing my work for Ottawa and I'm only allowed to do [the coaching search] in the off hours," he said. ``So it's hard for me to coordinate the people I want to see after hours. I probably miscalculated the efficiency factor, maybe thinking I could get all these things done at the same time I'm doing my work for Ottawa. [The freedom this weekend] helps a lot. That was John Muckler who allowed me to do that. It was very kind of him. It would be an ideal situation if we could do something before [the draft] but I don't know if that is realistic. I'd ask for patience to the extent that it's hard work."
Chiarelli yesterday interviewed former Red Wings coach Dave Lewis, who served as a pro scout for Detroit this past season.
``It was good, he's a good candidate," Chiarelli said. ``He's won a lot of Cups."
Lewis won three, as an associate coach in 1997, '98, and 2002. He said he met Chiarelli yesterday for the first time and came away impressed.
``He had good insight," said Lewis, who sat down with Chiarelli for some 90 minutes. ``He knows what is expected and he's trying to develop a road map. I think it was a pretty difficult year for the franchise. They struggled with injuries and with the goalies and it was just a tough year. They've got some bright young players who have really good futures ahead of them. You've got to put the pieces back together."
Lewis also interviewed with Vancouver and Los Angeles.
``I'm answering the questions that are presented the way that I think I've seen them done in Detroit," he said. ``You try to relate everything back to Detroit because that's where I've been for so long."
One Ottawa source said yesterday that Chiarelli had a second meeting with former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn. Chiarelli said there is one more candidate he would like to interview. He said it's someone he hasn't yet talked to. When asked if that person was in town for the draft, he said he didn't know. One possibility is Kevin Dineen, who coaches Anaheim's American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine. Dineen is in town this weekend.
``I've got one more interview and I've got a pretty good sense from that group now where it's going to go," said Chiarelli.
Just when remains up in the air. He said there's even a chance it will extend beyond the beginning of free agency, which kicks off a week from today, but he would prefer it didn't.
``It would be nice to have someone in place before that date for the purpose of free agents and knowing what the plan is," said Chiarelli.
As for Chiarelli's plans for today, he said he doesn't know if he'll be at Ottawa's draft table, in a suite, or up in the stands.
`` I think I'm going to be at the table because John said he might be cooking something up so they'd probably need me for trade support," said Chiarelli.
Bruins interim GM Jeff Gorton said Ottawa exercised its right to take Boston's third-round pick (No. 68 overall) today as compensation for Chiarelli.
Speaking of Gorton, he spent yesterday in GM meetings. He said the Bruins are still exploring their options with regard to the fifth overall pick, but Gorton said he thought they'd retain it based on the offers they had received.
``[The offers are] intriguing but not enough to get us out of the top five," said Gorton. ``They're not giving us as much as we want to get to No. 5. A lot of decisions have to be made. When you're picking fifth overall, there are needs, for sure. We'll weigh all our options with any of these phone calls that come in. Those teams that are in the top spots, we're there right now for a reason. We had a bad year and we have a lot of holes. You go through this over the last 10 months of a living hell. Now you've got a chance to get an impact guy. To move out of there, it's going to take a pretty significant [offer]."
Gorton has sent out qualifying offers to players, saying there won't be any surprises as to which players received them, and the front office is now mulling its options during this two-week buyout period that ends Friday.
As for the future of Sean Coady, director of pro scouting and player development, Gorton said it's possible he could elect to go elsewhere -- such as to the Kings, who recently hired ex-Bruins GM Mike O'Connell -- but said Don Sweeney's hiring as director of player development doesn't have anything to do with Coady's status in Boston.
``Sean's role is player personnel," said Gorton. ``Not so much development, which is where Donny's strength is going to be for us in the beginning. He's still working for us, he's scouting for us. As part of his deal, he's got a window this summer to look around and weigh his options, and he's going to use that window. If it doesn't work out in that window and he doesn't go with another team, he's got another year with us. He's a very capable guy who knows players and he's a good, hard-working guy."
Ultimately, though, it will come down to what Chiarelli wants to do.
``Chiarelli has full authority to make changes whatever way he sees fit," said Gorton. ``We're all subject to that."