Bruins management talks to the media

BOSTON – Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney, and coach Jim Montgomery assembled at TD Garden on Wednesday afternoon to meet with the media during the club’s end-of-season press conference. The brass looked back on the 2023-24 campaign and ahead to what is expected to be an intriguing offseason, while also touching on a number of other topics surrounding the Black & Gold.

Here's a look at some of the highlights from the presser:

Season in Review

Neely: “I know I did a really good job of hiding my emotions, so I do want to say I'm a little disappointed still that we're not playing. But I'm excited about the offseason and excited about next season. I think we saw some area of growth from players that we didn't expect to this year, which is encouraging for us. So, like I said, still a little disappointed we’re not playing but excited about next year.”

Sweeney:“I get a chance to be around the players, and how receptive they were to handling a lot going on behind the scenes, a lot of change. And I think our players with new leadership, accepting those challenges, embrace those challenges, and carrying forward on the ice for a very productive, rewarding season. [One] side says that we’re bitterly disappointed that we did not push this to the very least to a Game 7, to extend that series, to continue to challenge for what our ultimate goal is and it’s to win at the most important time of the year.

“We put together a team that was very, very competitive [in the] regular season. We fell short in the playoffs in some areas that certainly this summer we need to continue to address. Again, I'm proud of the leadership. It was a bit of a passing of the torch for our players. And I'm excited for the core group of guys as they continue to move forward to carrying this franchise forward.”

Montgomery: “I would say I'm very grateful to be part of the Boston Bruins because of the three gentlemen to my right, their leadership, their vision and their commitment to excellence, which allows the communication not only with them, but the players. I think which makes being a part of the Bruins special. When I look at the season, I echo all the sentiments that they’ve made, and what excites me about the potential of next year is the growth, the experience that our captain, Brad Marchand, is going to have to grow as a captain because he made it his team. And having all summer to build relationships with his core leaders.

“I think he's going to only make us better, and he will continue to grow in that capacity. The many players that establish themselves as core pieces and are becoming Bruins and the potential growth that they have within their roles and their individual growth, to help the Bruins be better, and the opportunity ahead of us.”


Falling Short

On the lack of postseason scoring…

Sweeney: “You’re right. It reared its head at an inopportune time that we weren't able to finish in quality chances…I think at the onset of the season what I've tried to communicate with the staff was I felt that our group would score enough goals during the course of the season. I didn’t think they would be dominant offensively based on the players that had exited our franchise and retired and moved on. But we set thresholds that we knew we needed to meet, and I thought with guys coming in and providing secondary offense, we did a really good job during the regular season.

“Now that manifests itself in playoffs in our power play, certainly in the Florida series, went to dormant at important times and moments. Yeah, and we need to fix and address that. Whether that's player personnel, systematically, these guys work hard every day to try and find nuances that may shift that…

“We didn't get inside quite enough in rebound situations that we might be able to take advantage of. So, there are some things we need to address. And I need to address from the standpoint of free agency and or internal growth, I think [Charlie] Coyle, [Pavel] Zacha, a bunch of guys were able to step forward. And they were cast as a little bit of misfits in that in that regard. We didn't see it that way – and I think they stepped forward and several other guys did, too.

“We have to conquer that. I have to be able to find some players that can come in and provide secondary scoring for us and key opportune times.”

On addressing team speed…

Neely: “Well, Don and I have had a lot of conversations since the season ended, we talk every day during the season and talk about how we want our team to play. Obviously, this game is fast and we're not as fast as we'd like to be. Some of that had to do with last offseason…we were really kind of hamstrung…our pro scouting staff did a really good job last offseason and built a team that competed the way they did. But there's areas where we still need to improve, and we're going to address that this offseason, for sure. But, yeah, maybe a little faster and we'd like to see a little bit more 50/50 puck battle wins. That's an area where you have to want the puck more than the other team.”


Free Agency

On how the team plans to utilize its significant cap space this summer…

Sweeney: “Yeah, we are in a situation where we can look to add to our core group of guys, and that also includes some of the younger guys…I think [Matt] Poitras was another one that we're going to hopefully have come back as he’s healthy next year and see what he's capable of doing. Moving forward he has to come back in and earn his spot like all of our young players and incoming returning players and how much they can push the group internally.

“But we’re going to be aggressive to be able to complement what we currently have in some areas. Our team played hard…whether or not we can play faster, whether or not we can find players that will create more anxiety on the forecheck in some of the situations. You certainly look at the teams that are still playing and they do a really good job of that, and in pockets of time we did, otherwise wouldn't have still been playing.

“The teams that are still playing or are damn good, they earned the right to be there and we didn’t. It's hard to get in, it's hard to continue to win, but I've got to find the players that we’re confident are going to push us forward.”

On the progress towards a contract extension for Jeremy Swayman…

Sweeney: “Well it’s clearly a priority…we clearly engaged in conversation during the regular season to define the longer-term extension. We haven't gotten there yet. It’s a priority now and it will continue to be a priority until we get that across the finish line. He’s a big part of our current team and our record in playoffs and our future. Our goaltending is arguably one of the best tandems in the National Hockey League, and they proved that during the course of the season. They put us in the situation most nights to have an opportunity to win. The priority will be to find a landing spot with Jeremy.”

On Linus Ullmark’s future with the Bruins and the trade rumors surrounding him…

Sweeney: “Again, those things will take care of themselves. No conversation I'm going to have with a player in terms of what we're trying to do, until we have to have a conversation, is really going to go public. I hope you all respect that because ultimately that's, as a player, a former player, I would hope would happen. We're gonna find a landing spot with Jeremy Swayman, and if we can make the math work, we're going to have the best tandem. If we can't, we're going to explore. And for Linus, he may come to us and change his mind, that may occur as well.

“Right now, we were very happy to sign Linus, and in a perfect world, we would keep the tandem because I think it's damn good. But we're going to explore opportunities. My phone's going to ring, I'm going to make calls. That's just what the job requires. At times, unfortunately, things start to leak out. That's your job, you guys do a hell of a job of figuring those things out and piecing them together.

“Some guys are really wrong, but it doesn't stop you from throwing it out there and that's OK. It's good for the business overall. It’s good for hockey, in terms of drawing attention and eyes to it, so I understand.”

On if he sees a path forward in contract discussions with Jake DeBrusk…

Sweeney: “Again, negotiation is a two-way street. We took an aggressive position with Jake. No different than other players that have chosen not to re-sign and explore, that's within his right, certainly at this time of the year. Do I see a path? Yeah, there’s a path, I told him that at our exit meetings. He’s been a big part of our group, he elevated in the playoffs. And I would prefer to have Jake DeBrusk as part of our team, but he has some opportunity in front of him that he may pursue otherwise. I don't have a clear answer for you today. But I know the position we've taken, we feel very comfortable. But it didn't get to the finish line.”

On his communication with impending free agents…

Sweeney: “I've had conversations with all of our impending free agents, giving them an indication of where we're leaning, but we haven't made any final, concrete decisions. Just telling them, we have upcoming meetings that we have to go through and then put the jigsaw puzzle together as we see it and how aggressive we're going to be. I've indicated some players the likely direction but nothing concrete.”

On Pat Maroon’s impact and future in Boston…

Montgomery: “I think Pat was really instrumental for that second voice or third voice. Especially on the bench. Especially in moments – I think I’ve talked about it, and other players have talked about it – in the face of adversity, he has a lot of special qualities that give confidence to players – that we can or we will attitude. He was important in a lot of facets to our team.”

Sweeney: “The intention, obviously, was to bring on the winning experience. He was that voice of reason that, if he’s able to calm things down, he does, despite the role and his ability to diffuse some things. Health will probably be the paramount thing that we factor in with Pat moving forward.”

On any discussions of a contract extension for Brad Marchand, who is entering the final year of his contract…

Sweeney: “Yeah, we're going to get to Brad. He's learning patience as a captain as well. So, he has to learn there’s some ducks in a row in terms of adding to our group and how he wants to add to that, and those guys that don't have contracts up ahead, and eventually he’ll extend here. He’ll be a lifelong Bruin, that’s what we should do. But we'll check that box.”


Bruins Centennial

Jacobs: “I'd like to thank all of our associates here at the TD Garden and the Boston Bruins for their wonderful efforts in helping us celebrate the Boston Bruins’ Centennial season. This was a massive undertaking involving everybody from front office and myself, all the way down to our summer interns. And I feel very proud of how we presented our brand here, not only in Boston, but I believe that we have paved the way for those franchises, those other U.S. based franchises that will be turning 100 years old, and then ones in years to come.”

Neely: “I do want to echo how great this Centennial season went off as far as all the Era Nights. I want to thank the alumni for coming back to Boston. A lot of them traveled great distances to be here. It's exciting to see the alumni. I know our current players really enjoyed the various alumni that came through Boston this year. I certainly want to thank our fans. We have the best fans in the League and they bring it every night, so good on them.”

Wait, There’s More

On if any players need surgery…

Sweeney: “No. Thankfully, at this time, we don't have anybody. Got some follow up stuff that a couple players will need, but we don’t have anybody for surgery.”

On any changes to the coaching staff…

Montgomery: “We haven’t finished all of our revision of last year, but as it stands right now, there is no imminent changes in our mind.”

On the difficulty of winning home games in playoffs in recent years…

Neely: “It’s really hard to say, to be honest with you, I think across the league in playoffs, maybe the home team might be under .500. So, I don’t know if this, in particular, is a Bruins’ issue. It’s something that we certainly want to talk about this offseason because when you get into this building as a player, you know it’s going to be cranking. And our fans, like I said earlier, bring it every night.

“That’s something when you’re at home as a player, you really want to perform well, and you probably put a little too much pressure on yourself as opposed to on the road, you just go out and play the game. From a player's perspective, I think sometimes you maybe put a little too much pressure on yourself to perform your best at home.”