Boston Bruins Conference Call Quotes; Wednesday, July 1, 2015
/ Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS GENERAL MANAGER DON SWEENEY MEDIA AVAILABILITY AT 9:30 P.M.
On the process of signing Matt Beleskey… Well, the courting process starts a long time ago. Obviously, there was a few twists and turns to be able to get to that position, but very, very excited when we had the opportunity to formalize things. A lot was thrown at Matt [Beleskey] from a bunch of different directions, and he was incredibly patient because I think he felt that there was a real good opportunity here, and I think both sides realized that once we were able to get it lined up accordingly that we were equally as excited to make sure it happened.
On the reason he targeted Matt Beleskey… Well, he was always identified as one of the top free agents in the market for us. Obviously, he had a breakout year, he had a very, very strong playoff that he followed up from a breakout year offensively, goal-production wise; his style of play was something that we identified that we were missing in our group; and it was just a real good opportunity to pursue a player that we coveted.
On why it seemed like most contracts handed out on the first day of free agency were relatively reasonable… Well, free agency is a frenzied time, so you can get caught up in the hype of it. I think the visiting period and interview period has sort of tempered that to some degree because you sort of have an idea. I think teams are very aware of each others’ cap situations, as are the free agent markets. I think everybody has the knowledge now, and the ability to forecast where you’re going to be, who has the necessary space to be able to put these deals together, and the agents know it. So the agents are certainly lining it up as well. So a little bit of work is done ahead of time to — I don’t want to say tee it up for every team, but certainly in the conversations that you have, you think everybody’s cognizant of their cap situations, and from a planning perspective, everybody’s doing a good job of locking up their younger players and identifying their core groups and then obviously going to market to try and fill in the needs that they see.
On the process of acquiring Jimmy Hayes… Well, Dale Tallon — I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He does things completely above board, and you have conversations to be able to have with Dale. I had a conversation prior to the draft, at the draft, just talking about our different teams and trying to improve our teams, and we had talked leading up to today. We had talked this morning, and just general concepts as to what we were both thinking to try and improve our teams, and when a deal presented itself in the fashion that it came through on, in light of the [Matt] Beleskey situation for us, I thought it made sense. We’re extremely excited to have a player like Jimmy [Hayes] heading to our team. He has a lot of upside, he had a breakout year offensively, I think he’s excited to play with the centermen that we have. He was equally excited, obviously, with the young players they had in Florida. He’s got a chance to come home and play in front of his family and friends, which will present some challenges for him as well, but he went to school here… I thought it made a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.
On the team’s position one week ago as opposed to its position at the end of the day on July 1… There’s a lot of sort of twists and turns to get to this position. A lot of things had to sort of fall into place. You look at the overall direction you want to head and take the team, and you have to adjust accordingly when certain things are thrown your way. And we had some challenges, and our group responded very well to identify the areas that we wanted to address, and look forward. That was what this was all about; it was about gaining some flexibility, continuing to try and improve our team… Clearly, Dougie Hamilton’s an elite player. We have a tremendous amount of respect for, and we would clearly liked to have signed him. When that course of action didn’t necessarily take place, we adjusted, and again, our group, the ownership, everybody from top to bottom was on board with being able to, as I’ve stated, find the flexibility to improve our team and also look toward the future.
On what the Bruins see in Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes and their untapped potential… I think both were put in positions to score and play with players that would complement their skill sets. They’re both heavy players in and around the net; they get to the net area, they both shoot the puck very well, they both have some size and strength in the hard areas of the ice, and it’s things that we identified that we need to get better at. To have the ability to score goals in the National Hockey League, it’s not an easy task, and between them, they scored 40 goals, so I think that we hope there’s even more upside to be played out with these two players, and we’re hoping — obviously, everybody feels — that it’s always a projection as to whether they’re going to continue to move up, or flatten out, or sometimes they have a bit of a dip. The rest of the team has to pick their own socks up as a result of that, but I think these two guys — with the consistency of going to the hard areas of the ice, and the size and strength and the shot — hopefully, they will continue to score goals at the pace they’ve now set themselves on.
On how the perception of the team has changed over the last few days… Well, the ratings for talk show radio are there for a reason. People are able to voice their opinions, and they’re certainly entitled to. We as a group stayed sort of within the bunker mentality. We knew we were taking some bullets, and that’s part of the business. I knew that; I had my eyes wide open when I took the job. I talked to ownership about the direction I thought we needed to set course in, and it’s a twisty way to get there, but with development camp upcoming, I think it’s exciting for us now to turn the page forward with looking at all the sort of landscape in front, and the excitement of our younger players that we’ve got here in the last few days, and including with improving, I think we’ve improved our overall group and our team in taking it in a direction that I think everybody’s excited about. Hopefully, it falls in place. You never know. The games are not going to be played until October; a lot can happen between now and then. But for me, it’s about looking forward, not behind.
On whether the team is close to where he envisions it being at the start of the 2015-16 season… Well, I don’t know if anybody picks their team, per se, in July. I think you assemble a group of guys you feel confident with, and I think now we’re taking a position where any trade that we look to make, or any player movement we look to make, is one that we absolutely want to and not have to. We have some flexibility now to look at things completely that way going forward. No promises; a lot of balls still in the air, a lot of players still to get back to their high side of their capabilities, and be excited about being a Boston Bruin. That, to me, now, is what the entire focus is about. It’s about wanting to be a Boston Bruin, and hitting your high side to win. And every one of our development guys are going to hear about it, and all the way forward going forward with all the discussions we have, it’s about being excited to play for us.
On whether the Dougie Hamilton situation provoked a renewed focus on players who are passionate about playing for the Boston Bruins… Don’t know. Don’t know, and not bothered by it. But I’ve identified — our group has identified — a player like Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes… The first conversations you have with those players is they’re excited, and I think that’s infectious. We’ve gotten a lot of younger players that are going to come through the door here for our development camp that they’re going to be as equally excited about them being drafted, identified and development begins. So you know what? As I said before, you learn from some of the experiences that are behind you, and you move forward and be excited about the ones, the challenges, that are in front of you.
On the team’s negotiations with Dougie Hamilton… I get it. I’m never going to get into the negotiation piece and what’s been discussed with player representatives. If other people want to talk that way, that’s fine. I felt very comfortable where we were in our position to offer Dougie [Hamilton] and his group flexibility as to where they felt they wanted to be — short-term, long-term… I probably shouldn’t say short-term. It’s probably middle- and long-term. And the ownership group was prepared to enter into negotiations within a framework. They had given me that latitude; I tried to initiate that. And again, when you’re approaching July 1 situation — June 30 situation — as a restricted or a UFA, you have the right to sit back and decide what you want to do, and that’s collectively bargained, and you cannot hold that against the player. I didn’t hold that against the player, nor should anybody. That’s their right. But the team — you can’t hold it against them for having to act accordingly, how they see it.
On becoming stronger on the wing than last year with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes… Well, Joe, to be honest with you, we want players that have the skill, they have the will to go out and battle and win. We can’t indict last year’s team in terms of having 96 points and being right in the playoff race down in the beginning. Did we fall short? Clearly we fell short. I identified stuff that I wanted to address going forward and I think we had done some of that. We’re not a finished product right now. We need players to—as I’ve referenced—to hit their high side in order for us to be successful we have to have help as all teams do. But, as I said I’m going to be excited about the group of players that we have right now and the players that have been part of our organization for the past little while and what we’re going to see on the ice and the conversations turn towards just getting us better every day.
On the free agent market and the team going forward… We’ll continue to identify potential people that will help our club. If there’s a player that represents an improvement then we’re going to look at it, whether that’s through free agency or acquisition. I’m not going to tell you I’m going to stop looking but I’m not in a hurry to do anything other than evaluate if that’s the best decision for our team. Hopefully we’ve done a lot of that in the last little while, but a bunch of things have been thrown at us in numbers and they’ve probably come a little too quickly for my liking. I’ve tried to handle them accordingly as a group. I think our group has responded well, but it’s been quite a bit and I think it’s time to certainly take a step back and evaluate and do things on your own terms. Again, doing things that you want to do for the absolute right reasons, not that you maybe have to do.
On how you personally deal with the media critics… That was probably home-grown, Joe. I’ve got a dad that had broad shoulders and a mom that supported him and a brother and sister that supported each other. I’ve always felt that support from the people that have believed in me and the organization that I’m now helping to move forward, they believed in me as well and that says a lot. I told people that asked me how I’m doing when I’ve returned back from the draft and such and I walked in the house to my family and they looked at me like, ‘Really? You signed up for this?’ and I said, ‘look, I arrived back at the airport with a ball hat and a flak jacket on because I knew the bullets were still going to fly’ and tried to set a course that we could continue to get better. My group of guys that I have had a chance to work with have been very supportive. All they’ve done is dug in. I told the guys when I got the job, I told every one of our scouts and every one of our people, I said, ‘buckle up’ because I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride to get going. I didn’t necessarily know how that would play out. I’m not claiming that I did by any stretch of the imagination, but I sit here today and I’m excited about the course going forward.
On Zac Rinaldo… My conversation with Zac [Rinaldo] right away turned towards him expanding his role as a player, getting better. I told him we would send him clips of the penalty kill with the way he skates. Really we love his energy, we love the fact he is going to track down pucks. He doesn't always have to run somebody through the end boards, this is a puck possession type game, let's go get it, let's make some plays. Let's expand your ability to impact the game outside of just the physical energy role and try to get him excited about what I feel our coaches are going to go to work with him for, what his teammates are now going to respect him for. I don't know where necessarily the upside exists from an overall point production standpoint with Zac Rinaldo. But I do know what he is going to bring to the table for our hockey club and I think his teammates are going to appreciate that. I want him to embrace that but I want him to understand where the line is. Whether it is Brad Marchand or other players in the National Hockey League that cross the line and then get back on it. And we are not going to stop preaching that to Zac. If he wants to continue to expand his game and have an impact in all areas and grow as a player, then he has to embrace that as well. And that was my very first initial conversation with Zac Rinaldo. And I loved his enthusiasm, he was jumping through the phone saying how excited he was to be a Boston Bruin. And now he has to go to work on those other things.
On the young defensemen… Well I think it is lost a little bit but we have five of six defensemen returning. Kevan Miller is part of that group of returning and we missed Kevan last year when he went down with that shoulder injury. He played for an extended period of time with a sling on and it was admirable of him and that is the type of character and warrior mentality that he obviously brings to the table. I think we have a blend of younger players to go compliment that group to push for the competitiveness that it takes to stay in the National Hockey League at the natural course of development. I have talked about having some patience for players to develop and then not being impatient in terms of their integration. And I think we are at that point. The players always identify when they are ready to play in the National Hockey League. Our coaches have to be willing to put them in roles where they are going to be successful. They need to be encouraged when they go over the boards that they can go out and bring what they bring to the table and when they come back, they aren't going to be ridiculed for making a mistake based on a lot times on inexperience. They need to be encouraged to see the things they do well as opposed to the things they can't do. Because we all go through that, there is not a perfect player. You are always going to make mistakes, just don't make repetitive ones. As a defenseman there is probably a little steeper learning curve when it is involved in that. You look at the progression of Zach (Trotman) and Joe (Morrow) and Colin and they are going to fit amongst our group. We have a couple of other players in behind that in, player in college in Rob O'Gara that excites us Matt Grzyelcyk and I can go right down the board in terms of where those guys are going to be in our lineup in the future. And again, that is the exciting piece.
On if the interview period provides GM’s more time to make decisions… Well I think they do, I think you’re able to be proactive. I think agents are proactive in this as well and doing their homework. And the level of communication is so much greater than it was from a frenzy standpoint. It’s not a cloak and dagger exercise, I think it’s healthy in that regard and I think general managers can try and plan accordingly or you try to. There’s no promises made in this whole exercise, you know you go through the experience I had today working with Matt Beleskey and his representative and you have to have strong communication, he’s got a lot of balls in the air in terms of opportunities elsewhere and he’s juggling it and had a number of conversations with other teams. So again there’s no promises about how it’s going to play out, you can have the best laid plans that can go sideways in a hurry in this game. You have to have backup situations that you can turn to and adjust accordingly. And I think the interview period certainly represents a great opportunity to sort of take a step forward, take a step back, take a step forward and sort of jockey your position to try and help your team.
On if the two acquisitions today play well within the Bruins new system or style of play… Well I think all of our players are going to be excited, or they should be excited to sort of be in motion and attack. Be in a little bit of attack mode where we can, you know, as I described it on my first day, create a little bit more anxiety. And it starts from the breakout, the transition game in your own end, defensemen getting back to be able to make and execute to transitional passes. Our forwards have to be, they’re going to be responsible. We’re going to be a responsible team, I’ve told you time and time again the accountability and structure you know has to be there, the two top teams that went to the finals and ultimately the team that won, there was structure up and down their lineup each and every night. And you’re not going to win without it. You know, do I think we can still create some anxiety or increase the anxiety in other teams? Yes I do and we’re going to work on all of our players being able to do that. Our coaching staff is excited about some of these tweaks but you know there’s still going to be that foundation there that we’re going to know how to defend and we’ve got good goaltending, we’ve got strength up and down our line up, and we’ve got some young guys that have to go about learning and gaining experience to be National Hockey League mainstays.
On if he spoke with Marc Savard and what those discussions were like… Yeah well I spoke with Marc today and you know was happy for him because he sounded like he was in a much better place. It was obviously devastating to him, he was a foundational player for us in turning things around, we were grateful for that. It wasn’t fun to see him go through that, he’s coming out the other side and he’s in a better place for himself, you know he said his golf game’s coming around and he’s not having as many headaches and setbacks in things. So from his life perspective, quality of life, things are much better. And was so happy to hear that for him but he was, he was a huge part of what we wanted to do and get us in a position to turn this thing around. And today was just an opportunity for us to have some more flexibility, he was understanding of that and I appreciated that from him. Because you know he’s a great guy, we’ve missed him in the locker room, missed him on the ice and hopefully he can just continue to get better in his own life and while he has a new family and we think the world of him. And we thank him for his time as a player and obviously wish him the best in his own life and to continue to recover to getting back into absolute full health.