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Julien, Sweeney Discuss Recent Hirings & Signings on Conference Call

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins — On Wednesday, Head Coach Claude Julien and General Manager Don Sweeney were both available to media on a conference call to discuss recent news, including former Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and Director of Player Development Jay Pandolfo being named assistant coaches.

“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,” said Sweeney.

“This restructure of the staff really was a collaborate 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.”

“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,” Julien said on the call. “Obviously both those guys were part of a Stanley Cup run, they were also part of our Stanley Cup win in 2011.”

“Having said that, there are transitions in this game, which happens throughout the whole league,” said Julien. “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.”

Julien announced on the call that Cassidy will be behind the bench handling the defense in 2016-17.

“Bruce Cassidy [is] a former defenseman and one that was very successful in the transitioning of the puck and has done a great job also with the group that he had in Providence,” said Julien. “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.”

Pandolfo will serve as the “eye in the sky” from the press box.

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,” said Julien. “So [he] certainly will be a guy that will help develop our young players.”

The Bruins also re-signed defenseman Kevan Miller on Tuesday to a four-year deal through the 2019-20 season, with Sweeney and Julien both highlighting the 28-year-old’s character and upside on the call.

“Kevan brings incredible character,” said Sweeney. “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.”

Miller played a career-high 71 games in 2015-16 and established career highs in goals (five), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He'll be entering his fourth season with Boston in 2016-17.

“Kevan’s been on an upward swing. I think this year was a good indication of that,” said Sweeney. “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.”

When Miller spoke with media on Tuesday after his re-signing, he emphasized improving his speed with the changing nature of the game.

“I think he had his ups and downs this year, there’s no doubt about that,” said Julien. “But for the most part, I thought he was a real good defenseman for us when he moved the puck; offensively, he has a bit of an upside to him.”

Julien will certainly expect more from him on the ice, but knows he will bring a great deal off the ice as well.

“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,” Julien said of the former University of Vermont captain. “He’s well-respected, he’s well-liked. He’s always ready to play.”

“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 think he’ll definitely help our team here get better moving forward.”

The other signing on Tuesday was that of Seth Griffith, to a one-year, two-way deal. The forward is entering his fourth pro season in 2016-17 and has 34 NHL games under his belt. He was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1.

Griffith had a career season in Providence across the board, posting 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points in 57 games with 32 penalty minutes.

“I think with Seth, he came in a couple years ago and had a bit of a stint, but I think from him probably ‘consistency’ is what [we’d like to see],” said Julien. “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.”

“He’s had some good spurts there in Providence,” Julien continued. “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.”

Loose Ends

In other remarks on the call, Sweeney disclosed that the Bruins have been in talks with Loui Eriksson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“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,” said Sweeney. “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.”

As for other impending free agents, Sweeney said he has had discussions with the players’ agents and given them an indication if they would like to ask the players back, but “nothing finalized yet.”

With Cassidy and Pandolfo joining the Boston staff, that leaves two vacancies in the roles of Providence Bruins Head Coach and Director of Player Development.

“We obviously brought Jamie Langenbrunner on last year [as Development Coach]. I’ve had some conversations, and am going to continue to have conversations as to how much of an increased role he would like to take,” said Sweeney. “Then we’re also going to look externally to add to that department.”

As for Providence’s bench boss, the role has not been addressed yet.

“Obviously [Providence Assistant Coach] 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,” said Sweeney. “As I referenced, he’ll be a strong candidate, but we’ll be interviewing other candidates as well.”

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