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Don Sweeney And Claude Julien Conference Call Transcript On 5/25

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
CONFERENCE CALL WITH BOSTON BRUINS GENERAL MANAGER DON SWEENEY AND HEAD COACH CLAUDE JULIEN

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BOSTON BRUINS GENERAL MANAGER DON SWEENEY AND HEAD COACH CLAUDE JULIEN
Opening statement…
DS:  I want to thank everybody for being part of the call this A.M. We announced and finalized the additions to our coaching staff yesterday, and we are excited about the impact that Bruce Cassidy, Jay Pandolfo, along with Joe Sacco, will have on our team and Claude’s staff moving forward. Claude and I have been discussing in an ongoing manner, really since I was hired, about his staff, as well as our roster. Teaching, communication, development, reinforcement of the structure and how we expect our players to play were the topics that we kept coming back to in our discussions. This restructure of the staff really was a collaborative effort to provide Claude with a group that will reinforce how he wants his team to play, and we’ll also work to get all of our players, vets, young players, new players to the organization to perform to their highest level. We also announced the signing of Kevan Miller to a four-year extension. Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development. We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.
 
CJ: First of all, thank you for being on this call for everyone that’s there. I want to first of all thank Doug Jarvis and also Doug Houda for their contribution to this team for the time that they’ve been with me. Obviously both those guys were part of a Stanley Cup run, they were also part of our Stanley Cup win in 2011, and as I mentioned the one in 2013. They were instrumental in helping us get there. Having said that, there are transitions in this game, which happens throughout the whole league, and every once in a while you see the changes being made for all the right reasons. I think we’re in a transition mode here and we were fortunate enough to have two coaches that I think will fit in extremely well with my group, in Bruce Cassidy and Jay Pandolfo. Both those guys I interviewed two years ago when Geoff Ward left, was very impressed with the interviews that I had. So when we had an opportunity to fill those roles, again I was certainly willing to circle back with those guys. They certainly have good knowledge of our organization, of our players, so for me it was a very smooth transition that I think will be happening between those two guys, integrating with, obviously, Joe Sacco, Bob Essensa and myself. I want to welcome both those guys, happy to have them on board, and looking forward to working with them. Obviously there’s going to be some roles that those two new coaches are going to have. Bruce Cassidy will definitely be behind the bench taking care of the defense part that Doug Houda had. Bruce Cassidy being a former defenseman and one that was very successful, I think, in the transitioning of the puck and has done a great job also with the group that he had in Providence, I think that’s going to be a good place for him and certainly a good area for him to help improve our transition game back there. Jay Pandolfo has always been a great and smart player throughout his whole career, understands the game extremely well, spent a couple of years developing and obviously learning the trade on the management side of things, so certainly will be a guy that will help develop our young players, certainly help us with the transitions that will be going throughout the game with being the eye in the sky. He’ll certainly help us, like I said, with the development of our players and preparations to our games.
 
On if there was any question as to whether Jay Pandolfo would transition to coaching…
DS: Well Jay, interestingly, coming out as a player, expressed interest from day one to get into coaching, had been a part of the search process that Claude referenced earlier. I’ve spent an awful lot of time with Jay in the last two years while he’s transitioned into a development role. He spent a lot of nights behind the bench in Providence. He watches a lot of video with our players in a development role. I don’t really think it ever left him that he wanted to take a crack at this. I think it’s sort of in him as part of his fabric to want to teach, to want to impart upon the players the knowledge that he knows what it takes to win. He’s won. I’ve trained with him in the summer; he knows exactly what it takes. I think that it’s in his blood. Doesn’t mean that he can’t transition back out in a year’s time if it’s something that he doesn’t want to do, but it’s something that he wanted to jump into right from the get-go.
 
On where Kevan Miller improved himself most this past season…
CJ: Well, I think a couple things. First of all, the experience certainly helps, but he’s got some confidence. I think he had his ups and downs this year, there’s no doubt about that. But for the most part, I thought he was a real good defenseman for us when he moved the puck. Offensively, he had a bit of an upside to him. You saw him making great plays in the offensive zone, pinching the wall, carrying the puck in deep. But at the same time, we’re talking about character players, and he’s certainly one of those character players that, in my mind, could become one of those leaders in that dressing room. He’s well respected; he’s well liked. He’s always ready to play. This guy, like [Don Sweeney] said earlier, has only got I think 160-some games in the NHL, so he’s only going to get better. I think his commitment to getting better is there. He’s big, he’s strong, there’s a lot of upside to him. When you look around the league, it’s not easy to find players like that. But definitely happy that he’s back, I’m happy to have him back. I think he’ll definitely help our team here get better moving forward.
 
On if any other teams asked permission to interview Bruce Cassidy…
DS: Not as a head coach. There was an inquiry last year. Butch had indicated to us that he wanted to stay in Boston as part of the organization. He had interviewed, as Claude mentioned, as part of the staff, wanted to see things through. He had signed an extension in Providence and felt that was his place that he wanted to be. He had the opportunity, I think, to possibly interview elsewhere last year as an assistant role.
 
On if the team is looking to fill the Director of Player Development role…
DS: Yeah, we obviously brought Jamie Langenbrunner on last year. I’ve had some conversations, going to continue to have conversations as to how much of an increased role he would like to take. Then we’re also going to look externally to add to that department.
 
On what the team will look for next year to confirm the changes made will be helpful…
DS: Well, it’s always going to come down to results, there’s no question. I’m on record, this is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so. Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch, through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table, how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.
 
On how he weighs age vs. NHL experience when determining the mileage of a player…
DS: Good question, D.J. [Bean]. In terms of doing some analysis, both on regression of players and certain age, but I think the mileage factor in players is certainly a function of that, style of play is a function of that. But also Kevan’s been on an upward swing. I think this year was a good indication of that. Obviously the style he plays, he’s subject to getting dinged up. He came back from his shoulder surgery and didn’t miss time with his shoulder at all. He works extremely hard; he works hard on his own individual game. But the character piece speaks for itself. The depth that you need and are required to have at that position is important. I think it allows the younger players that we have in the system to come in and either push players out or develop at the right pace. So we felt comfortable that at his age and the term of it that he was going to continue to get better and work on his game because he’s diligent about it.
 
On if he will explore trades for Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg…
DS: I’ll explore whatever I have to do, in every way, shape or form to continue to improve the club and find the blend and the balance that we need. I said that in my opening statement at the end of the year that we’re just going to continue to look to improve our club in every way, shape or form.

On if Kevan Miller will set an example for the younger defensemen…
CJ: Well I think Kevan is one of those guys that is always in great shape. And as Don [Sweeney] spoke of a little while ago, you normally have a pretty good idea at a certain age how players are going to be as they get older and some obviously will decline a little bit quicker, some others can obviously sustain it. An example is Zdeno Chara, you know, he’s always been in great shape. I think Kevan Miller is one of those guys that’s always going to keep himself in great shape, and I think he still has a lot of room to get better – better as a player, better as a leader. As I mentioned earlier, he’s a character player. When you watch those guys perform, what they show on and off the ice, you know – the work ethic, the demeanor, their professionalism – I think Kevan Miller is one of those good examples of that. So you know he’s going to be a great example for a lot of people, and as I said earlier I’m happy to have him back.

On what Seth Griffith can work on to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL…
CJ: Well I think with Seth, he came in a couple years ago and had a bit of a stint, and you know he did okay. But I think from him probably consistency is what I’m hearing. Again, I don’t see him playing all the time in Providence. All I can rely on a little bit is what he’s done here. And you know he came up for a few games this year; we didn’t quite see enough so he ended up going back. He’s had some good spurts there in Providence is what I’m being told. Consistency is probably what you want from Griff. He’s a skilled player; he skates fairly well. But at the same time, at the NHL level here the biggest thing is you try and find players that you know what you’re going to get on most nights. So if he can improve in that area I think that’s going to be a big boost for him.

On improving the club’s defense and what he wants his defensive group to have next season…
DS: Well I think we need to look for another transitional D-man. We’ve had talks with Torey [Krug] and we’ll find, whatever term that ends up being, we’ll find a contract for him. But we’re looking for balance. We’re also looking for players like Colin Miller to take the next step. We’ve got younger players that will hopefully push, and that’s what you want. You want the depth of the organization to be there for the younger players to push somebody out because they’re ready to play. You know and [Matt] Grzelcyk and [Rob] O’Gara, and just came back from seeing [Jeremy] Lauzon play, you know very excited about the trajectory of that player and the possibility down the road, depending on what his development curve looks like and when he gets in here and playing against the men. So we’ve got pieces in place that will hopefully push the group that we currently have and that’s what you want. You want that internal competition that players feel like they better perform. But we’re also looking outside the marketplace because we need to continue to transition the puck better.

On if there are any other specific roster needs they’ll look to upgrade via trade or free agency…
DS: Well we certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. You know we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. But we’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.

On how difficult it will be to land a transitional defenseman and how much groundwork he laid at the trade deadline to get that kind of player…
DS: Well time will tell on that one. You know, either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter or finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. But you know, we’re going to be aggressive.

On if he’s told any free agents that they won’t be back…
DS: [I’ve had] discussions with agents and given them indication, but nothing finalized yet.

On if there’s been any sort of movement on Loui Eriksson…
DS: We’ve been in discussions with Loui and have a pretty good idea where they would like to be at, and we’ll see whether we can find common ground there. But there have been ongoing discussions on that front. As I’ve always said, I really respect Loui as a player. He had a fabulous year and we’d love to be able to retain him.

On what he thinks the personnel can do to improve the retrieval and pushing the pace and getting the puck out…
CJ: Well I mean you have to continue working on that retrieval part, you know. And I think sometimes a lot of it has been made about the transition game for whatever reason. I think our offensive game was much better this year. I think we were able to produce more. Basically to be honest with you, I think I’d like to see us improve a little bit better on the defensive side of the puck. And that’s meaning bring our goals against down a little bit, and to me it’s not just defensemen, it’s forwards coming back and making sure we have a better group to defend so that we can turn the puck over. And I think that in itself, if we can get a little bit better defensively, whether it’s tracking, whether it’s in the zone, we can get the puck out quicker and get our transition going. But you know a different look as you know, when you look back at the days since I’ve been here, we had Geoff Ward, we had Craig Ramsay, Doug Jarvis and Houds [Doug Houda] in here as well. And you know there’s a transition back there and there’s nothing to do with the ability of the people in place. Sometimes it’s more about a guy like Butch [Bruce Cassidy] to bring a little bit of a different flavor to the back end, which may help as well. And I think that’s one of the things that Butch has done well in his career as a player and also with his players with the transition game. And what I expressed to him was I'd like to see our D’s use the ice a little bit more when it’s there for them and not worry so much about moving it to his partner. So whether it’s wheeling the net, whether it’s taking ice that’s given to you, I think it will help the transition. And I think Butch is … that’s right in his wheelhouse as well. So those are the kinds of things I think that we’re looking for from our back end. But you know again the transition game to me wasn’t as big of an issue as the play without the puck defensively and how many goals we gave up this year. So we have to find that balance of continuing to bring the scoring like we did last year but improving on the goals against.

On if the defensemen will be free to push up…
CJ: Well yeah I think the plan is to be a little bit tighter, and as you know there are a lot of our D’s that excel obviously with big sticks, and I’m not just talking about Zdeno Chara, but you know McQuaid and I think these are all hard guys to get around. But I think if we can be a little tighter, better gap, and at the same time have better retrieval where our D’s can wheel the puck and have some good support from our forwards, that will definitely help.

On the penalty kill…
CJ: Well actually, I’m meeting with my staff next week, and we’re going to be here together and we’re going to work all of that stuff out. I haven’t defined any specific roles yet because every one of them from Joe Sacco, who ran the power play last year and with obviously Doug Jarvis is also a guy that can do a great job as a penalty-killing guy as well – that’s what he’s done in his career. So same thing with Bruce Cassidy, he’s a former defenseman but he’s also been a good power-play guy so I’ve got a lot of flexibility there. And obviously Jay Pandolfo is a great penalty killer. There’s a lot of flexibility there and so I’m going to sit with them, we’re going to have a discussion and we’re going to clear all of that stuff out obviously before we get back here for development camp.

On who the next head coach will be in Providence…
DS: I haven’t addressed it yet. Obviously Kevin Dean will be a strong candidate, and he’s advocated that he’d like to interview for the position, so we’ll do that. As I referenced he’ll be a strong candidate, but we’ll be interviewing other candidates as well.

#05/25/16#
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