When Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli named Jim Benning the club's director of player personnel Tuesday, it furthered the assertion a few months back by owner Jeremy Jacobs that Boston was so impressed by the Buffalo Sabres' model of success that they planned to follow it.
Jacobs, and his son, Charlie, executive vice president, said they were impressed by the Sabres' teamwork and level of commitment without overspending on players. Although the Bruins have a superstar athlete in defenseman Zdeno Chara, and will need to ante up significant raises to center Patrice Bergeron and right wing Brad Boyes, Chiarelli and Co. have tried to put together a roster of contributors who will be valuable but a) won't put them in danger of butting up against the $44 million salary cap, and b) aren't so top-heavy with big-money players that a key injury (except for, arguably, Chara) would be a devastating blow to their lineup.
Benning, 43, spent the last dozen years in the Sabres' scouting department. Three of those years were under general manager John Muckler, who was Chiarelli's boss with the Ottawa Senators.
Benning believes the Sabres' model is absolutely worth adopting.
``I worked for the Sabres for a long time and we didn't have maybe the cash resources to go out and have a high payroll and sign the best players," he said. ``So our philosophy was, we really believed in character and hard work and the players playing for one another and the 20th man on the roster being as important as the first or second man. That was our philosophy in Buffalo and I bring that with me now to the Bruins.
``We want to assemble a team that's going to work hard for one another, play hard for one another, and enjoy success with one another. I talked to Peter extensively and that's what he believes in. So that's what made it a good fit for me."
Benning is assuming the tasks formerly carried out by Scituate native Sean Coady. ``I'm going to be director of pro scouting so I'm going to oversee [scouting] of all NHL teams and the American Hockey League teams and helping Peter out with personnel decisions for the team," he said.
Benning, who served as the Sabres' director of amateur scouting the last nine years, will continue to be based in Portland, Ore., but will go where needed. He said taking the Boston job seemed natural.
``To be quite honest, I was kind of keeping an eye on the moves they made this summer," he said. ``From the outside looking in, the team and Peter showed a commitment to having a very successful organization and I wanted to be a part of that expectation and the process of helping that out.
``I'd worked for the Buffalo Sabres for 12 years and I'd had a lot of good experiences there and it was just time to do something else with a new organization. When Peter called me about the opportunity, I thought it was a great fit."
He said he didn't know Chiarelli well but they had Muckler in common.
``John Muckler was our GM in Buffalo my first three years there and Peter was his assistant in Ottawa, so I'd see John and talked to him and it always seemed like Peter was with him," said Benning. ``I got to know him, so I guess it started that way."
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Benning believes his job will play an even bigger role than it has in the past.
``Pro scouting and amateur scouting under the new salary cap is going to become very important to building winning teams," he said. ``At the top, you're going to have the good players making a lot of money, but the third and fourth lines of your team, you want players who maybe aren't making the big money but can help the team win and be successful."
Benning said his first order of business is communication, which will continue to be a critical part of his position.
``Right now I'm just going through the process of getting to know my scouts on the pro side," he said. ``I'm talking to them and figuring out how we're going to go about covering the teams this year. On a day-to-day basis we'll talk about personnel decisions and the things we can do to try to make the team better.
``Peter has assembled a staff and I'm going to work with that staff and we're going to get the job done."
Keith Primeau, who was limited to nine games last season because of post-concussion syndrome, plans to begin skating hard in Philly Wednesday. If he feels well enough, he intends to ratchet up his on-ice workouts to at least four times a week to determine if he's able to resume his career.
He told TSN (Canada's equivalent of ESPN) that he should have a verdict by Sept. 1.
He was scheduled to work out in Finland earlier this summer but had to cancel that trip because he was not symptom-free.
He has two years, $6.84 million remaining on his contract.
If he can't play, the Flyers would get some cap relief, similar to what the Bruins are going through with injured center Alexei Zhamnov. ``I'm under contract and they'd love to have me back," Primeau told TSN. ``I kind of put personal pressure on myself [to decide one way or the other]. I feel as though I'm under the gun personally not to hamstring them.
``They're not going to wait for me forever."
Last season, Wayne Primeau said he was rooting hard for his brother to fully recover but hockey wasn't the most important thing: ``He has four kids. His family is first."