He was looking forward to being back in the rink and observing the progress the players have made since this time last year.
After four days off rigorous on-ice practices and off-ice conditioning, Sweeney is coming away from the week with extremely high hopes for the future.
“It’s always an exciting week for all of us,” said Sweeney. “But it’s been a process here for the last couple of years in particular, with players that are now at the forefront of where this organization is headed and we feel good about that.
“They’re a big, big part of our future – they know it, we’ve acknowledged it to them. And now they recognize the opportunity in front of them to take advantage of it.”
The players went through multiple on-ice skills and practice sessions each day, before concluding on Friday with a three-on-three tournament. They also took part in off-ice training and seminars at various points during the week, while getting the chance to tour Fenway Park and attend community events in Wakefield, Stoneham, and Charlestown.
Sweeney credited new Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo – who previously had been the team’s Director of Player Development – and skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold for putting the week together.
“It was a good week on the ice,” said Sweeney. “I thought Jay, you know as he moves over into coaching now, did a really nice job organizing. A lot of thought going in with Kim with what they were going to do on the ice, very specific to hopefully getting each player out of their comfort zone at certain times, allowing them to work on things and that’s really what the week is all about.”
While he leaves the week enthusiastic about the growth and progression of a number of players, Sweeney acknowledged the team must practice patience and not rush them into positions they may not be ready for.
“Patience is a word that is not readily thrown around in this marketplace and we understand that,” said Sweeney. “I would never not acknowledge that we’re in a competitive business; we want to win every year. You have to grow your players. I firmly believe that.
“I’ve been committed to it since I’ve taken the job and certainly in working in development I’ve always believed that the internal search is the best place to find your players. If they don’t then that’s on us for misidentifying. But the opportunity will be there for them to have a chance to play for us.”
Sweeney was specifically asked if defenseman Brandon Carlo (a second-round pick in 2015) and forward Danton Heinen (a fourth-round pick in 2014) would get chances to make the big club out of training camp.
“Well, I look forward to camp,” said Sweeney. “As I said, we have a number of players that are on the doorstep of pushing current players we have and that’s what you want; you want it internally for the organization.
“We’re not going to think July is the time to evaluate that. They’ll have ample opportunity come September, go through Rookie Camp and into main camp and see who emerges as being able to push. But we’re excited about where they are at this point in time.”
Sweeney was also pleased with the performance of 2016 first-round pick Charlie McAvoy.
“As advertised for me,” said Sweeney. “You realize he moves around so very well. I think we look at the two-way component to his game and the upside on both sides of the puck those are guys that log a lot of minutes in the National Hockey League level and I think he tracks in the same regard.”
It was the first time Sweeney had the chance to see McAvoy and his fellow 2016 draft picks, Trent Frederic, Ryan Lindgren, Cam Clarke, Joonas Koppanen, and Oskar Steen. Add them to the recent signings of David Backes and Riley Nash and Thursday’s re-signings of defensemen Colin Miller and Joe Morrow, and Sweeney feels the organization is in better standing than it was a month ago.
“I think we’re an improved hockey club,” said Sweeney. “We’ve improved some areas that we wanted to make sure we were deeper at, certainly in the middle ice, penalty killing. We wanted a little more balance on our back end and to be able to have some transitional play involved on pucks and getting back on pucks.”
Thank You, Wilmington
For the last 30 years, the Bruins have made Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington their home away from home. But Friday marked the organization’s final skate at their practice and training center, before moving into its new practice facility in Brighton this fall.
Sweeney opened his media availability by thanking the Ristuccia Arena staff and the town of Wilmington for their support over the years.
“First and foremost I want to acknowledge the people here in Wilmington, the community itself,” said Sweeney. “We’ve been in this area for 30 years. [Rink owner] Bob Rotundo, and Eileen, have been tremendous partners with us. I spent my whole career practicing here and now in the management group and we feel very fortunate to have had this type of relationship with not only the town, but also the people here at Ristuccia.
“So I want to say thank you to all of them first and foremost, as this is our last time that we’ll be on the ice surface here as a group before we move into the new facility.”
After Friday’s final session, the prospects traveled to Brighton for a tour of the Warrior Ice Arena, where they will gather from now on.
Providence Decision Coming
Sweeney said there would be an announcement regarding the next head coach of the Providence Bruins some time next week. Former coach Bruce Cassidy was promoted to Boston as an assistant earlier this offseason.
Marchand Talks Have Begun
Sweeney said he has started talks with Brad Marchand and his representatives in regards to a contract extension. Marchand is set to become a free agent after the 2016-17 season.
“I think I’ve been pretty up front in that I’d like to be aggressive in trying to identify – and we have identified – Marchy as a core guy,” said Sweeney. “We want to continue down that path, but it takes two sides to make a deal. I would envision that he’d like to be part of this organization for what could be, arguably, his whole career. But Brad has a say in this as well.”
Krejci and Krug Are on the Mend
The rehabs of David Krejci (hip surgery) and Torey Krug (shoulder surgery) are going “very well,” according to Sweeney. He did not give timetables for their returns to the ice.
“I see Torey pretty regularly, as he’s been around all summer,” said Sweeney. “David just went down to Carolina for a few weeks, his rehab has gone very well. He has it set up down there for a little bit, but he’s popping back up. Our doctors and medical staff are very comfortable with where both those players are at in the rehab process.”
The 2016 Boston Bruins Development Camp is presented by AT&T.