BOSTON - Cam Neely says the Bruins are still set up to contend for the Stanley Cup for years to come.
Speaking at a news conference a week after Boston was eliminated from the playoffs by archrival Montreal, the Bruins' president noted that most of the roster is made up of young but experienced players — aside from 37-year-old Zdeno Chara.
"And Zdeno is still, in my opinion, the best defender in the game," Neely said. "So I still think we're in our window. We just have to recognize what we need to do to make our team better, whether it's guys playing better or whether we're adding different players."
The core of the current team, led by Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in 2013.
This season, they went 54-19-9 and won the Presidents' Trophy with the best regular season record.
In March, the Bruins had a 12-game winning streak and a 16-game point streak that helped them soar to the top of the standings. They did not lose more than two games in a row all season. Against the Canadiens, however, the Bruins came up short despite grabbing a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. It'll be up to management to determine where the way the Bruins played in March or how they played in May is more reflective of the capabilities of the current roster.
"I think when you have the regular season that we had, especially that stretch from March into April, that wasn't luck," Neely said. "We were a good team. And we still feel we have a good team and maybe need a few tweaks."
The Bruins have two key players, forwards Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton, scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1. They have a handful of restricted free agents and several signed veterans with no-trade clauses. There doesn't seem to be an urgent desire to make major changes to the on-ice personnel. Owner Jeremy Jacobs is confident Neely, general manager Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the front-office staff have the right plan to avoid a future early-round loss.
"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," Jacobs said. "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 changes. I think keeping the organization together is one of their objectives and two is to improve on it."