Jacobs said he and Neely, among others, came to their decision on Tuesday at the conclusion of “an ongoing dialogue.” Chiarelli was informed of the decision on Wednesday morning, Jacobs said.
“It was really about, how do we improve our club moving forward?” Jacobs said. “And it’s a task — or, frankly, an audit — that we take every year after the season is over. This season happened to end a lot earlier than many [others] for us, and we’ve been very fortunate in that regard.
“I think Peter had a very good tenure here, when you think about the stretch of playoffs — one, trips to the playoffs, and two, success in the playoffs — that he’s had. But it became time, we believe, to separate and move forward.”
Neely added, “We believe that we made the decision moving forward to help improve the hockey club. I don’t want to take away anything that Peter accomplished here; he’s going to go down in history as the GM that brought the Stanley Cup to Boston for the first time in 39 years, so that says a lot about his abilities as a general manager.
“But we just felt — and it’s not just this particular year, not making the playoffs — we just felt, moving forward, it was the best thing for us to do. It was not an easy decision to come to — [we had] a lot of conversations about it — but we felt that it was the best thing to do moving forward.”
Until a new general manager is hired, Jacobs said, the remaining Hockey Operations executives will report to Neely.
Over the course of his nine-year tenure as general manager, which began in May 2006, Chiarelli earned a Stanley Cup title in 2011, a Cup appearance in 2013 and a President’s Trophy in 2013-14. Both Jacobs and Neely reiterated that the decision to relieve Chiarelli of his duties was a difficult one to make, but one they believed to be in the best interest of the organization’s future.
“It was a very difficult conclusion to come up with,” Neely said. “We had numerous conversations about where we felt the direction of the franchise was going, and where we felt we’d like to see the franchise go, and clearly, Peter had a lot of success. So it wasn’t a decision that we took lightly.”
Neely and Jacobs said that their search for a replacement general manager will begin immediately, and both internal and external candidates will be considered.
“We’re going to take our time and go through the process and make sure we make a decision we feel is best for the organization,” Neely said. “Again, it’s really about what we feel is going to be best for the organization.”
Added Jacobs, “[It’s about] finding the best candidate. Period.”
Neely also addressed the future of current Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, who signed a contract extension in November 2014. Neely and Jacobs met with Julien on Wednesday morning.
“We told him that we really believe that once we go through the exhaustive search to find the next general manager, that we will leave it up to that GM to decide what he wants to do with our coaching staff,” Neely said. “Claude certainly understood that, but that’s where we left it.”
Jacobs added, “I think we are trying to identify the best candidate possible to be our next general manager, and the decision is theirs regarding the coach.”
During their meeting, Neely said, Julien reiterated his desire to remain with the Bruins rather than explore other coaching opportunities that might open up during the course of the offseason.
“He said, ‘I signed a contract to coach here; I want to coach here,’” Neely said. “So he made that clear when he left. We had planned to meet with him in the next couple of days to sit down about the season and talk to him about this past season, so that’s next on our agenda with Claude.”
When asked to pinpoint the reason why this Bruins team was unable to meet the same threshold of success as Bruins teams of the recent past, Neely pointed to a team-wide loss of identity.
Additionally, he said, there were some deficiencies regarding the team’s transition game and its ability to convert on offensive opportunities.
“I think maybe we got away a little bit from our identity that we had in the past,” Neely said. “I don’t think we were as hard a team to play against as we like to be and we were in the past; I thought that got us some success.
“Our transition game probably needs some improvement, so getting the puck out of our end, through the neutral zone. And I think we’ve got to find ways to create some more offense.”
Neely added that while the Bruins were forced to incorporate a number of entry-level players into the fold this year given the team’s position against the salary cap, such a situation is to be expected from any team that repeatedly finds itself in a position to compete for a championship.
“In this salary cap era, especially when you’re up against the cap, you’re going to have to inject some entry-level players,” Neely said. “It’s our job, as an organization, to inject the type of players that we feel are going to one, help us win championships, and two, have the type of character and style that we’re looking for.
“Every team that’s up against the cap has to inject some entry-level players, and we’re no different. That’s an area we have to be mindful of moving forward.”
Neely and Jacobs are confident, however, that the Bruins are not in a position to resort to a rebuild. They are confident that they still have the pieces in place to compete for the Stanley Cup.
“I don’t think we’re looking at a large or a complete rebuild; I mean, we’ve got still a good group of core players that have great character, that, to a man, most of them admitted that they had an off year this year,” Neely said. “We think that that group is still good enough to help us compete for championships.”