Neely administration greeted by fanfare
Yesterday at TD Garden, the Bruins officially named Cam Neely, one of the organization’s most beloved players, the eighth president in team history.
“The role of the president is a special position,’’ said owner Jeremy Jacobs. “The president has the responsibility for carrying the torch of the team. I can’t think of anybody better to pass that torch to than Cam Neely.’’
The presidency had been vacant since Aug. 9, 2006, when Harry Sinden, now senior adviser to the owner, held the title. Sinden, called the greatest president in team history by Jacobs, had been in the position since Dec. 1, 1988.
“There’s been a vacancy for a few years,’’ Neely said. “I think it will certainly help put our business side and our hockey ops side a little bit closer together. Peter [Chiarelli, the general manager] can concentrate on the hockey ops side. We can mesh those two a little bit better together.
“We’ve had a relationship here with the whole hockey ops group, including [assistant GMs] Don Sweeney and Jim Benning, where decisions are talked about and made. That’s certainly going to continue.’’
As president, Neely will oversee hockey and business operations. He will continue to serve as alternate governor, a position he’s filled since being hired as vice president on Sept. 25, 2007. Chiarelli will report to Neely but will still have the final call in all hockey decisions as general manager.
“When we make decisions as a group, he’s part of that group. That’s not going to change,’’ Chiarelli said. “His voice is a voice that we all listen to. At the end of the day, I’ve got to make the hockey decisions. But as before and as we continue, I’ll listen to Cam.’’
As vice president, Neely was an adviser to Chiarelli. Neely has been at the Bruins table during each draft, and he has been in the war room at trade deadlines. Two summers ago, Neely played a major role in recruiting Blake Wheeler, then a free agent. Both Neely and Chiarelli acknowledged there have been instances of disagreement within the hockey ops group.
“Any decision that you make as a manager, you’re not going to have agreement from everybody,’’ Chiarelli said. “It’s not my job to create consensus. It’s my job to make the right decision.’’
Neely, who noted that he hates losing more than he enjoys winning, acknowledged he is still very disappointed in the Bruins’ second-round loss to the Flyers this spring after taking a 3-0 series lead. But Neely said the Bruins, who have the second overall pick in next week’s draft, are headed in the right direction. He hinted that in 2010-11, young players, ranging from either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, to previous picks such as Jordan Caron and Joe Colborne, will be given opportunities to crack the lineup.
“We’re going to be drafting more skill,’’ Neely said. “We have some skill that we’ve already drafted. Over time, those skilled players will get into our lineup.
“What type of game that’s going to create for us, that’s exciting to me — to see some of these young, gifted, skilled players eventually work their way into our lineup, and the type of game that will bring us. I know that will be very exciting for our fans.’’
“I’m not moving it,’’ Chiarelli said. “We’re going to take one of those two forwards.’’
When asked about trading with Edmonton to claim the top spot, Chiarelli said such a deal would not involve a flip of the picks. Instead, it would be an agreement that Chiarelli would get the player he prefers (Hall is the better fit for the Bruins), with Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini retaining the first pick and agreeing to take the other forward. However, Chiarelli said Hall and Seguin are too close to merit a trade.
“If I decide that the gap between who we have at No. 1 and who we have at No. 2 is large enough,’’ Chiarelli said, “then potentially I would consider a move to bridge that gap. That is, to get that player. Right now, that gap is very small. I can’t see it changing.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.