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Press Conference Transcript with Boston Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs and President Cam Neely on 4/15

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DELEWARE NORTH’S BOSTON HOLDINGS CEO CHARLIE JACOBS AND BOSTON BRUINS PRESIDENT CAM NEELY PRESS CONFERENCE AT 3:00 PM
On when the decision was made to let Peter Chiarelli go…
Charlie Jacobs: It was a process, and it was iterative, and we had an ongoing dialogue, and we finally made the decision regarding Peter on Tuesday. So it was yesterday, that we made this call. We met last night and then with Peter this morning.

On whether there was any one final thing that precipitated the decision…
Charlie Jacobs: I’d rather stick to general terms and say that as I mentioned, it was a process of dialogue — many parties, including Cam [Neely] and myself. So when we realized that this is what we believe to be in the best interest of the club, we move forward.

On whether there was any change made to Peter Chiarelli’s responsibilities during the “evaluation process” earlier this year…
Cam Neely: At some point during the year, as we approached the trade deadline, I had a conversation with Peter to make sure that we were protecting as many assets as we could.

On whether Peter Chiarelli was able to trade, for example, a first-round pick prior to this year’s trade deadline…
Cam Neely: Believe me, Peter was very professional and he was going to do everything he could to help improve our club during the season. It was more about, for me, trading assets for rentals, which he understood.

On whether any decisions have been made on the future of Head Coach Claude Julien…
Cam Neely: It hasn’t fully been made, and we met with Claude this morning, Charlie and I, and 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. Claude certainly understood that, but that’s where we left it.

On why Peter Chiarelli was fired…
Charlie Jacobs: It was really about, how do we improve our club moving forward? 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 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 for, we believe, to separate and move forward.

On what Peter Chiarelli did or didn’t do this particular season to warrant this change…
Charlie Jacobs: Out of respect for Peter, I’d rather not get into the mire of day-to-day transactions or any things that we may or may not have agreed with, other than to say we felt this was best.

On any additional details as to why this decision was made…
Cam Neely: You know, there’s a number of things that happened throughout the course of the year, and throughout the course of the tenure, that I think myself and Charlie and ownership would probably evaluate. I don’t want to get into specifics; I don’t think it’s fair. I can appreciate the fact that our fans would like to probably get us to be a little bit more specific as to why, but 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; I mean, 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 — a lot of conversations about it, but we felt that it was the best thing to do moving forward.

On whether a trip to the playoffs would have prevented this outcome…
Cam Neely: Well, it’s a good question, but are where we are, so it’s hard to answer that.

On the vision for the team moving forward…
Cam Neely: As much as I’d like to get into detail with that right now, we’re going to be going out on a process to try to find a replacement GM, and if I say everything that I’m looking for, then all the resumes I’m going to get are going to be, ‘This is what I can do for you.’

On the improvements that are expected going into next season…
Cam Neely: Well, I think maybe we got away a little bit from our identity that we had in the past. 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.

On the difficulty of making this decision…
Cam Neely: As I shared, it was a very difficult conclusion to come up with. 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.

On whether the loss of identity can be attributed in part to the implementation of entry-level players…
Cam Neely: In this salary cap era, especially when you’re up against the cap, you’re going to have to inject some entry-level players, and 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 where we have to be mindful of moving forward.

On whether the need to improve the offense will be addressed through a systemic change or a personnel change…
Cam Neely: I don’t want to get into that too specific detail right now about that, but I think we we’re a team that could create offense, and we’ve shown in the past — I think it’s just our transition game from our zone, coming out of our zone, made us look a little bit slower than we were. We didn’t really have — we had less opportunities off the rush than we normally do. So those are things that we can certainly change, but it’s an area — obviously our bread and butter, our strength, is keeping the puck out of the net, but we also have to find ways to create some offense.

On whether Claude Julien was given any options with regards to his own future…
Cam Neely: Well, we — Charlie and I brought that up to him, and we told him the situation. We asked him, and he said, ‘I signed a contract to coach here; I want to coach here.’ 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.

On whether the team is in the midst of a rebuild…
Cam Neely: 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. We think that that group is still good enough to help us compete for championships, so the difficult thing is where we are up against the cap, and that’s going to be something we have to manage.

On whether the team’s position against the cap might require a big move this offseason…
Cam Neely: We really just got through the last few days of talking about what we need to do right now. Next step is to go through the process of finding a general manager, and then we can have those discussions.

On Claude Julien’s future being determined during the process of hiring a new general manager…  
Charlie Jacobs: Having been through this process before, when we transitioned from Mike O’Connell to Peter [Chiarelli], it was part of the interview process. It was a question that was asked of all the candidates. But in all candor, in order to find the best candidate, you have to give them the freedom to make those decisions on their own. They have to arrive at their own conclusions, without prejudice from management. That’s how you allow them to fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities. So yes, it will be part of the process; we will certainly say, ‘We think we have a good coach, we’d like to hear you input on it; the decision is ultimately yours, new GM.’

On whether that insinuates that current management will be choosing the next coach…
Charlie Jacobs: I think you may be jumping a few steps ahead. 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.

On whether any consideration has been given to trading picks in exchange for Claude Julien this offseason…
Cam Neely: I haven’t even — I can’t — I haven’t even entertained that, nor have I really… I think that we have a good coach, as Charlie [Jacobs] had mentioned; that’s not something I’ve entertained.

On the relationship between Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli toward the end of the season, and whether that factored into the decision to relieve Chiarelli…
Cam Neely: No, that didn’t factor into our decision. Those two have, in my opinion, a great working relationship and have for a number of years so this was a very trying year for everybody. I’m sure frustrations set in, and that would be a better question to ask Peter or Claude, but I know, or at least I feel they have a good working relationship.

On Charlie Jacobs’ comments in January and whether that left him with any choice but to make this decision…
Charlie Jacobs: If I could, if I may just go back to my January comments… I feel they were accurate, and that in January, my frustration of where the team was — I think we were in ninth or 10th place in the conference at the moment, on that day in January — and I said that for us not to make the playoffs would have been a failure. So here we are, out. And I want to clarify, by the way, my comment about the playoffs: The expectation is for us not only to get into the playoffs, but to play and compete for the Stanley Cup, not just to get in. I feel that may be lost a little bit in the messaging. But  I didn’t necessarily think, at the end of the season, OK, let’s sort of wash our hands of X, Y or Z associate. That wasn’t it. It was, again, going back and sort of doing an audit of what had transpired throughout the year, where we were in terms of an organization and in terms of our depth, whether it be from our scouting department, our minor league system, where we are with our senior club, of course, and then sort of determining where, perhaps, we need to improve. So again, this was not an easy decision; I have a great deal of respect for Peter [Chiarelli] and what he accomplished here, especially bringing back — I can’t thank him enough for 2011 and the ride that that was. But we felt it was time to move on, and this was the move.

On your analysis of the last three games trying to clinch a playoff spot…
Cam Neely: Yeah, obviously it was frustrating. I think Washington [Capitals], I was expecting to come out a little different than we did, although that’s a very good hockey club they’ve got there. We had problems generating any kind of offense in Washington. In the Florida [Panthers] game I thought we started ok and then we scored and we seemed to sit back a little bit which kind of surprised me. I was hoping to get another one and then we didn’t after maybe the ten or 12 minute mark in the first period I don’t think we played the way we were capable of playing. Then in Tampa I actually thought we played pretty well. I think if we played that way in Florida we might of had the two points in Florida. I know it’s tough from a players perspective obviously when you put yourself in that position in the organization and the team is in that position, having to win those games at the end of the year, the pressure gets ramped up a little bit. It’s not just those three games, I thought we left some points on the table throughout the season. Any team that misses the playoffs can say the same thing.

On telling Peter Chiarelli to preserve the assets and him having ownership of the moves he was making on the trade deadline…
Cam Neely: Yeah those were all his moves. When we’re approaching the trade deadline I have to look at the organization, not just for today but for the future it’s part of my job and I just wanted us to be cautious of moving top picks or top prospects for rental players just based on where I saw our club at that particular time.

On there not being any rental players that you thought would have put you over the edge…
Cam Neely: Not based on what I was told was out there for opportunities.

On who is running the show right now…
Charlie Jacobs: Hockey operations that reports to Cam [Neely].

On meeting with Don Sweeney, Scott Bradley and John Ferguson…
Cam Neely: Yeah so we met with Donnie-- Don Sweeney and John Ferguson—Scott Bradley is not local, he’s over in Switzerland and had him on the phone but they’re to continue their regular day-to-day duties as they know what they are. Don [Sweeney] is still handling Providence as he has for the past number of years. Anything that comes in from any hockey related issues across the league or internally come to me and I’ll decide where they go from there.

On current hockey operations staff being considered for the promotion…
Cam Neely: That’s something that Charlie [Jacobs] and I talked about. Obviously we’re going to have both internal and external interviews to replace Peter’s [Chiarelli] role as General Manager. The thing that I like to see have happen is communication amongst the group. You’ve got a dialogue of everybody’s thoughts of our hockey club especially guys that have been around for a while. And those happen quite often but it’s going to continue to grow.

On what Peter Chiarelli’s plan would have been for the Bruins future…
Cam Neely: Didn’t specifically talk to Peter about his plan. So no, that didn’t play a factor into it.

On you being aware and supportive of the Jarome Iginla signing and Johnny Boychuk trade…
Charlie Jacobs: Well, let me answer it this way. I have never interfered with our GM’s ability to make a trade. We work on a very consultative process in terms of how do we make a decision. I’m fairly certain if Peter [Chiarelli] were standing up here now and you asked him was he ever prevented from making a trade by me or Cam [Neely] or anyone, I’m certain he would say no. So we need to empower the GM to fulfill his job to the best of his abilities and not meddle in that regard. When it comes—the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, in terms of product that he delivers on the ice and what’s left. We did spend quite a bit in terms of getting Jarome [Iginla]. It put us in a tough and sticky situation come September but there were a number of options that were sort of flown by the group of how do we get compliant and I left the decision to Peter and his group. That’s to imply that I wouldn’t have to vet it. I didn’t and it was, to say, what you think is best.

On Cam Neely’s view of the money problems the team experienced this year…
Cam Neely: Well it wasn’t as cut and dry as that. As we went through training camp and saw we didn’t see a push from below that we expect of certain guys, so then it became a question of ‘we do have to get [salary] cap compliant’. How are we going to do that? We were hoping, to be honest, that some of the younger kids were going to push a little harder or make a bigger impact at training camp and that would give us some other options. We still also believe that we had to ice a team that we felt could be competitive throughout the year and as the season went along, can we make some other adjustments.

On you wanting to have more influence on what happens on the ice and taking a more direct, day-to-day role going forward…
Cam Neely: Well, Steve, I’m not a micromanager and I don’t want to be a General Manager. I want to have a vision, I want to understand what the vision of a General Manager is going to be for the hockey club, obviously, as we move forward. I felt that I was able to have conversations and express my opinions. I felt that I was able to do that the last four or five years—six years. But as far as—I’m not a micromanager and I don’t intend to be.

On how much the failure in drafting played into this decision…
Cam Neely: Well, I mean, we have to look at the organization as a whole obviously and today’s day and age with the game and the cap and a team that is fortunate enough to spend to the cap. As you have success and those players get better and you have to pay them more, you need those entry-level players to come in and be able to have an impact. It’s expensive to always get ready made players. It’s a nice luxury to be able to have but when you don’t have the cap space to be able to do that, you’ve got to find entry-level players. I think there was a period of time there where—I don’t think I’m saying anything that hasn’t been chronicled—we missed on three or four years on some drafts that I think right now we’re kind of paying the price for. That’s not the sole reason but that’s an area where I think we can improve.

On you having final say on trade and free agents acquisitions and how much did this team lose its identity this season...
Cam Neely: Yeah, I mean, I’m looking for more—like I said I’m not going to micromanage a GM. I want him to do his job. I certainly want to have conversations about why and what the thought process is to make particular deals and trades and how that is going to look for the franchise, not just when it happens but also moving forward. The other thing to your second question, I think where we’ve had success is our four lines play hard. That’s doesn’t mean you can’t have skill and play hard. It’s something where ‘is it easy to find?’ No, but I think I’d like to see us get back to playing hard and where the team plays for each other. I think we lost that a little bit.

On winning teams ending up in salary cap trouble and if you plan to alter you philosophies if the team gets back to that point...
Cam Neely: It’s complicated to—obviously when you have success, you like your players a little bit more than if you don’t. But the biggest thing is I really talk about if you want to keep those better players, you need to be able to backfill with entry-level players that can play the game. You have to insert them into your lineup and there’s going to be some hiccups and bumps along the road but to stay successful and keep good players, you have to be able to backfill with entry level players.

On thinking internal or external for replacement and how much change an internal replacement would be able to bring...
Cam Neely: Both. 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. Again it’s really about what we feel is going to be best for the organization.
Charlie Jacobs: Finding the best candidate. Period.
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