LAS VEGAS - After 29 years in professional hockey as a player and executive, Don Sweeney attended the NHL Awards for the first time. Consider him one-for-one.
Sweeney was voted by his peers as GM of the Year, besting his fellow nominees Don Waddell of the Carolina Hurricanes and Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues.
"I just don't think you can leave a stone unturned in terms of appreciation for the organization," said a humble Sweeney after receiving the ward. "Top to bottom. You guys are a part of this. It really takes everyone to be fully invested to have success. It's difficult to win. We have a group that just decides is all in. From the smallest of times that you're able to go and enjoy breakfast together as a staff, I think you guys would recognize that we have a devoted organization, we have a committed group. Our players and the coaches, really throughout the organization it's a testament to the hard work and an acknowledgment on their behalf."
Video: Sweeney speaks to being the NHL GM of the Year
The win marks the first time a Bruins GM has the award since the trophy's inception in 2010.
"It comes back to our leadership group supporting those efforts as well as the organization," said Sweeney. "[Bruins owner] Mr. [Jeremy] Jacobs, [Bruins CEO] Charlie [Jacobs], [Bruins President] Cam [Neely], when you go to ask for something, they do everything they possibly can. It's really a testament to the success that we had this year as an organization. It's not reflective of one person by any means."
In his speech, Sweeney was genuine in crediting his wife and two sons for all their support.
"That was important for me," said Sweeney. "To be able to express the gratitude that I have for she and my two boys who have been so supportive of every really small thing that takes away from what at times are the ideals of a family to be together. I'm incredibly grateful. My wife is the rock of this family and she's supported me endlessly for all my own aspirations and so it was important to be able to acknowledge that for her."
Video: Don Sweeney earns NHL General Manager of the Year
Sweeney was named the Bruins GM in 2015 and has overseen a number of changes to the organization.
"I was afforded the opportunity to be in the chair," said Sweeney. "We mapped it out in terms of where we thought we could get an opportunity. We felt like this was our time period. We knew we had to recommit to a draft and develop model. We made a very difficult decision in a coaching change, sort of infused a few of our players. It allowed Bruce [Cassidy] to implement some of the younger guys that he felt comfortable giving them an opportunity."
This season, the 52-year-old made critical offseason and midseason moves, including the two standout acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson at the trade deadline.
"You're just trying to find potentially missing pieces," said Sweeney. "We've worked hard the last few years to kind of hone in on some areas that we felt we could fill some gaps. I can't say enough about what Marcus [Johansson] and Charlie [Coyle] did for our hockey club coming in and fitting seamlessly. And obviously our leadership group and every one of our players in the locker room welcomed them. We went on a very good run; we just fell a little short. That's probably been the hardest part the last six days, knowing what the players put on the line for the opportunity to win. You're just so proud of them."
Video: Don Sweeney voted best GM of 2019 at the NHL Awards
The next challenge for the 2018-19 GM of the Year is to shift his focus to the NHL draft set to begin on Friday, June 21.
"That's been difficult," said Sweeney. "Not from the draft perspective. We've been focused on that. We've had our meetings. I think from a pro perspective, you're in a bunker during the Stanley Cup playoffs when you go that far. You're not listening to even some of the internal discussions that you want to have because you know you're not making phone calls.
"You've got players that are invested and you're not going to do that. You're not ripping away anything from what they're trying to accomplish. It's difficult to turn the page, but that's just what the job entails."