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Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs, CEO Charlie Jacobs and President Cam Neely Annual Season-End Press Conference Transcript 4/20

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS PRESS CONFERENCE

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BOSTON BRUINS OWNER JEREMY JACOBS, CEO CHARLIE JACOBS AND PRESIDENT CAM NEELY…
CN: Good morning and thank you all for coming. Not quite a year ago Don [Sweeney] presented a plan, which he thought would get us back to being Stanley Cup contenders. That plan included giving us some cap flexibility, stockpiling prospects and putting a playoff team on the ice. And quite frankly, with 86 points and 13 games to go, we should’ve been a playoff team. We should be playing right now. We should’ve locked up the third seed and who knows? But that didn’t happen, and we’re all extremely disappointed the way the season ended. But having said that, that plan was not a one-offseason fix. We know what our goals are, we know what we need to improve, and we’re taking the necessary steps to continue to do that. So from my perspective we were told by Don, it’s going to be a bumpy road, we should see some improvement along the way, and for the most part we had that. But it's the way we finished that was extremely disappointing for us.

On how the end of this season feels different than the end of last season…
CN: Well there are a lot of similarities. We, you know, going down the last part of last year of both seasons we felt we were going to make the playoffs and didn’t make the playoffs, so both very disappointing. As a player, you shouldn’t say, “Okay what kind of team do we have?” You should look at it, “I want to play playoff hockey.” And we didn’t get the job done the last couple years.

On the loss of identity and if they felt it came back this season…
CN: Yeah I do, and I still think we have room to improve in that area. But I believe the group was a closer group; they enjoyed playing for each other and working hard for each other. I thought there was, you know aside from a couple stretches, we were a team that showed more passion probably than the year prior. But it’s still an area we need to improve upon.
CJ: I concur with Cam [Neely] that there were some listless moments last season when the team, in my opinion, really for lack of a better term, didn’t have the heart that we had seen in years prior, and that came back. I think some of the youth that Donnie [Don Sweeney] was able to inject into our roster reflected some enthusiasm that we frankly hadn’t seen in a while and it was refreshing. Mind you that doesn’t mean we’re not all sitting here disappointed about the outcome, but it was a change, and I think by and large it changed for the better.

On trying to be playoff contenders versus Stanley Cup contenders like the Detroit Red Wings…
JJ: I’ve been watching Detroit and they’re…you don’t understand or I don’t understand the issues that they have in front of them. They are a great team and have been for a very long time and they’ve got some wonderful stars there that…but age, you do pay a price for age and all and bringing in the youth. What you admire though is their evolution versus the revolution and so far as that’s concerned you admire the fact that they’ve been on a consistent course. I think we admire that, and I think Cam is playing a similar role now.

On where the accountability falls…
CN: Well it’s all of us really. I mean from me, myself, Don, the coaching staff – all of us. But like I said, the plan that Don put in place wasn’t a one-offseason fix, you know. It’s not easy during the course of the season to make deals to try and improve your club, but a lot of things happen in the offseason. So we’re going to get to work this offseason.

On if there’s any more clarity on the assistant coach situation…
CN: Yeah, Don is still working through that. I think he’s got some people in place that he wants to get together with and interview, along with Claude [Julien] – obviously it’s a collaborative effort. Don is out scouting right now but I know when he gets back he’s going to sit down with Claude and they’re going to go over some names.

On if Doug Jarvis and Joe Sacco are gone…
CN: As of now, no. 

On how he would assess Claude Julien’s season and what the decision-making process was like on his end…
CN: Well I thought he did a great job coaching this year. It was a big transition year for him, different player personnel than he’s accustomed to. He tried to integrate a lot of younger players and I think he did a good job with the roster. There’s areas where we can all still evolve and I think Claude is looking at that. I think he did a great job with some of the circumstances we had throughout the year. So I really…when Don said he wanted to keep Claude I had no problem with that at all.

On what went wrong and what he thinks the fix is…
CN: It’s something that I’ve been thinking about since our season ended. It’s hard for me to understand how we got to where we were with 13 games remaining and not being able to close it out. So for me it’s a combination of maybe some of the will, you know, the will to win, the will to compete. Maybe it’s some of things we could’ve done differently tactically. I think it might be a combination of those things, but I wish it was as easy as saying, “This was the exact problem.”

On how the decision to bring back Claude Julien was made…
CN: Well there wasn’t really…I think throughout the course of the year Don and I had conversations on a regular basis, you know. That’s one of the things that has been refreshing is Don likes to talk hockey – not just with me, but with Mr. Jacobs, Charlie, with the coaching staff, all the coaches, all the players. I think that’s important. So we have conversations throughout the year and there wasn’t really a point where we said, “I want to bring him back.” It was, he wasn’t doing anything differently. So ultimately that’s Don’s decision. If he comes to me and says, “Listen I think we need to make a change here,” I have to go on his recommendation because he’s the one that deals with the coach on a daily basis.

On why the decision to keep Claude Julien as head coach came so much more quickly this year…
CN: Well we, you know, we made a decision that it was going to be the GM’s choice on what to do with the coach last year. We all felt he’s a very good coach. We still feel he’s a very good coach. It’s difficult to find very good coaches in this league. But we felt it was the right thing to do to let the GM, which ended up being Donnie, make that decision. So he had to go through that process. Even though he was in the organization, he didn’t talk to Claude on a regular basis at all. So he had to go through the process of understanding the working relationship that was going to be in front of him and would he be comfortable with that. So that took some time. I know it was difficult for Claude and I know it wasn’t easy for Don, but that’s the process he had to go through.

On how he assesses Don Sweeney’s plan…
CN: You know that's the fear I have about being a playoff team. I mean that’s not the goal. Obviously you have to get to the playoffs to get to the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. If you look at what we call our core players and you look at where they’re at in their careers, and you know you could all have your opinions on how many years they have left, we look at that and then we say okay it’s our job to supplement those guys with players that are going to help us win a Stanley Cup.

On what his expectations are going into the summer for Don Sweeney to start training camp on the right foot…
CN: Well listen I don’t have any concerns about his work ethic to try and improve the club over the offseason. So we know what our back end is all about so we need to find, if we can, we need to really improve that area of our team. We’ve got a lot of good young forward prospects up and coming. Whether they make an impact this year or not remains to be seen, but our back end is something that I know he’s going to be very focused on.

On if they’re willing to take a step back if that’s what it takes to get them back to being successful…
CJ: I don't think that it would be appropriate to address this without speaking to that issue of incorporating youth into our lineup. In speaking with Don and understanding the prospects that are in our system, the expectation is that we can integrate this youth and still be a playoff team. That’s the expectation from where I personally sit.
JJ: I agree with Charlie with the caveat that I think we did take a step back this year for that very purpose. It was hurtful for this year no doubt about it, but we will…I think for a period of time we stopped being in an invest mode running with the guys we had and you pay a price in this game if you’re not constantly investing in the next generation.
CN: I think if you look at some of the better teams that are playing right now, you know, you count their drafts and it’s upwards of 10 or 12 players or 13 players in their lineup that they drafted and developed.

On if he thinks they’re in a better position now than they were last offseason…
CN: I believe so, yeah. I mean I think we had a productive offseason. Now obviously there was a curveball thrown in there but we had a productive offseason where I think the first two rounds we should get some good players out of. Granted, it may not be next season, but I believe bringing in Matt Beleskey who’s a guy that gives it every game, I mean his consistency was there throughout the year. I mean he may not have scored as much as he would’ve hoped or we would’ve liked, but his consistency, his physical play, you know was something that we as a group liked from him this year. So there are steps along the way that we need to take and we need to continue to do that to improve. And this offseason hopefully is going to be fruitful for us.

On how he can consider it productive when they missed the playoffs…
CN: Well I think, if I’m not mistaken, you said we were missing the playoffs in July. [I didn’t]. No? Okay well maybe it was June. Yeah, any time you miss the playoffs when you’re in the position that we are, it’s frustrating and disappointing, but I think if you look at our organization as a whole, from year to year we’re a different organization. I think we’re deeper in the prospects than we’ve been in a long, long time. You know that’s one of the areas where it’s failed us to be able to plug in some young guys the last couple years. So I think that part has vastly improved and we still know we need to make improvements. I’m not sitting up here saying we’re a Stanley Cup contending team, but I’m saying we should’ve been in the playoffs.

On not being in invest mode and where the accountability lies…
JJ: The accountability actually is with Cam in this organization. And the invest mode is looking at where your draft picks are, how they’ve evolved, whether they’ve been successful or not and seeing that you’re moving that next generation into your game so that when you have cap issues, as we have had, that you’re not forced into the position that we’ve been put into as has been explained to me by having to make some serious changes with regard to the personnel that you have and the characters you have on your team. That’s what I was thinking of.

On what happened this year…
JJ: As you saw, we had the [Milan] Lucic and the [Dougie] Hamilton and others that were actually cap issues that we don’t have this year going forward. Space has been cleared. Now, whether or not or how it’s used is going to be up to Don and Cam and the group together, but they have coalesced together, have come to a plan where that may not have been the case before.

On how much of a factor getting a young defenseman was to Don Sweeney’s plan…
CN: I can tell you he worked extremely hard to try to move up. The scouting staff did a good job of identifying, and obviously if you look back at the draft where you kind of had to be to get one of those D that were highly coveted, he just couldn’t do it last offseason. [He] tried throughout the year to make something happen and he’s maybe laid some groundwork leading up to the deadline and hopefully be able to get something done in the offseason. But like I said earlier, we know it’s an area that we need to improve upon.

On if defense is the bigger area for improvement…
CN: Yeah, that’s probably at the top of the list.

On if Cam Neely feels push and pull between the business side and hockey operations…
CN: Well first and foremost, what you do on the ice drives the bus. It’s that simple. We’ve got great relationships with various partners throughout the organization. We’ve got a tremendous fan base and they have desires to see championships teams. Quite frankly, it’s fun to have a fan base that is that passionate. But at the end of the day, your on-ice product and how you perform is driving the bus. You get back to being a successful franchise and everything looks much better.

On whether or not Tuukka Rask is viewed as a foundational piece and if any players are untouchable…
CN: Well, Patrice [Bergeron] is a pretty special player that everybody should be pleased that they have an opportunity to watch play. I certainly enjoy the way he plays, his commitment, his dedication. Everything about him is what we want a Bruin to be. But if there are opportunities to improve our club we have to look at them. We have to be honest and assess and look at them. I don’t know if Don [Sweeney] was just being vague, but you don’t really know what’s out there and if someone comes knocking at your door you’ve got to listen.

On if the team needs a character upgrade…
CN: Well, I don’t think you ever have enough, to be honest with you. A lot of the core guys have been on a Stanley Cup-winning team so they know what it takes, they’ve been there, they’ve done it, they understand it. We have to upgrade around those guys. Some of that is, if you can add character you always want to add character, but the character has to be able to play, too.

On if there are any contracts that he views as bad…
CN: Yeah, I think every team probably has contracts that may be a challenge to try and move and do something with. We’re no different.

On who the product on the ice is a reflection of…
CJ: I say without question this is Cam [Neely]. If people were to ask who is head of hockey operations, it’s a collaborative effort between a number of people. But if you ask for one sort of name I would say it’s Cam Neely. I’m fairly certain my father would share that sentiment. I just want to clarify one question that was asked earlier. It was about investing, it was about investing in our team. It’s something that we continually do. We had leveraged our future to the point where something had to change last summer. We made the change and we’re writing the ledger, if you will, by stocking our team back up with prospects with the ability for cap flexibility to make the proper moves moving forward. We will always invest in this team. I think now we’re back on the right side of the ledger, we have an opportunity in front of us to move forward. We are a cap team and there should be expectations in an Original Six market that we continue to be a playoff contender, and frankly a Stanley Cup contender. Given the mix of talent that we currently have on the roster and the youth that’s coming in, Cam’s aware of those expectations, as is Don.
JJ: I would go with Cam because it’s very obvious to me that Cam and Donny speak alike and collaborate very well, as well as the coach with Don and with Cam. There’s a dialogue there that’s pretty open and I feel whatever I hear from Cam is refined and combines all of their combined thinking. So the leadership is at the president and the president has good lines of communication.

On if Cam Neely is the person who makes final decisions…
CN: You have to allow your GM to do his job. If I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s doing I will let him know. But you have to allow your GM to be able to do his job and what he thinks fits. When we interviewed Don and he laid out a plan that he thought would get us to where we want to be I certainly agreed, both Mr. Jacobs and Charlie agreed with it. If I didn’t, he wouldn’t be the GM.

On how much the coach is responsible for the end-of-season troubles…
CN: Well, there’s certainly an element. I think there’s an element on everybody really. I mean it’s not just the coach, it’s not just the players, it’s everybody that’s trying to put this team together to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish. One of the things I can tell you that I’ve learned recently is that our coach has not lost the room. That’s one of the first questions you’ve asked, especially of someone that’s been around as long as Claude and some of the players have been around as long as Claude. That has not happened and if it did we’d have different discussions.
#04/20/16#

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