BostonBruins.com - Nearly 200 players in Black and Gold have made the drive on I-95 between Providence and Boston as they worked towards establishing themselves into full-time NHL players.
Current Bruins like David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk and Tuukka Rask all went through the pipeline as P-Bruins before becoming mainstays in Boston.
On Wednesday, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli made a series of announcements that will continue to foster strong organizational depth, with the Providence Bruins as an integral part of the process.
The GM announced that the club has agreed to a long-term affiliation agreement with Providence, named Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney the GM of the Providence Bruins and hired longtime NHL player (and former Bruin) Jay Pandolfo as Development Coach.
“Having a solid working relationship with your AHL affiliate is so integral to the long term success of your NHL team,” Chiarelli said in the team's official announcement sent out on August 27. “With Providence and [Providence Bruins team owner] H. Larue Renfroe's stewardship, we have that and more. We look forward to many more years with the Providence Bruins."
The P-Bruins have served as the American Hockey League affiliate for Boston since their inception in 1992, making the 23-season affiliation one of the longest standing player development agreements in the history of the AHL and of the NHL.
Current players in the organization who have played at least one game for both Providence and Boston include the aforementioned Krejci, Marchand, Boychuk and Rask, along with Matt Bartkowski, Patrice Bergeron, Jordan Caron, Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Alexander Khokhlachev, Torey Krug, Matt Lindblad, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Ryan Spooner, Niklas Svedberg, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky.
“On behalf of the Bruins organization we are happy to have our relationship with the Providence Bruins extended,” said Bruins President Cam Neely. “Having our AHL affiliate so close is a great asset to not only our hockey team, but to our fans, as they can watch our prospects develop."
It's no secret that fostering homegrown talent breeds success, especially in the salary cap era, and Sweeney has been at the forefront of that as he enters his ninth season with the Bruins front office in 2014-15. Since joining Chiarelli's staff in 2006, Sweeney has implemented the team's annual development camp and been ingrained in the development process of prospects and young Bruins.
“Don takes a lot of pride in the development and success of the younger players, most of whom come through Providence,” said Chiarelli. “Don has been in charge of Providence for some time now and he will continue to oversee that important relationship with enthusiasm and passion and ultimately, success.”
Chiarelli previously held the title of GM with Providence.
“During the past eight years, I have been very fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to work closely with some outstanding people in Providence,” said Sweeney. “I can fully attest to their total commitment to developing young men as both aspiring NHL Players and quality people."
"Our partnership with Providence is about providing an opportunity for players to develop in a competitive and winning environment."
The P-Bruins went 40-25-2-9 during the 2013-14 season (91 points), reaching 40 wins and 90 points for the 10th time in the franchise’s 22 seasons, and making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinal for the second straight year.
Eight Providence players made their NHL debuts in 2013-14, with Kevan Miller earning a full-time stay in Boston. Svedberg, Warsofsky, Trotman, Florek, Cunningham, Lindblad and Khokhlachev also played their first NHL games, marking Boston’s most players to debut since 2005-06. Florek got called up to fill in during the postseason when injuries arose.
Providence Head Coach Bruce Cassidy sees the players' development firsthand every day, and knows how important the P-Bruins are to the sustained success of the organization.
"I think every GM would tell you that it is important that you get players coming through Providence and I take a lot of pride in it," Cassidy said during the Bruins' development camp in July. "I think we’ve done a good job down there over the last few years, but again, that is what we get paid to do … You know, it always starts with – you have to draft good players. You have to have guys to work with, and then you have to find what makes them tick."
With the hire of Pandolfo as Development Coach, he will be another important part of the development process and finding "what makes them tick."
The 15-season NHL veteran and two-time Stanley Cup Champion finished out his career as a Bruin in 2012-13, before officially announcing his retirement in January 2014. Prior to turning pro, the Massachusetts native had a four-year collegiate career with Boston University.
“Jay got a good sense of how we approach things during his time as a player here,” said Chiarelli. “He has a real common sense approach that focuses on commitment and dedication. These are attributes that he showed also as a player and he will use in development of our younger players and prospects.”
“I am very excited to start the next chapter in my career and rejoin the Boston Bruins organization,” said Pandolfo. “Working with the younger players in the system and helping them improve as professionals is an opportunity I am grateful for and a challenge that I look forward to.”
The announcements came about two weeks before Bruins' Rookie Camp kicks off on September 11.