LAS VEGAS - The pain of falling just short of the ultimate prize still stings, but when the Boston Bruins look back on the 2018-19 season, they can be proud of the group that fought adversity and pushed all the way until Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. The man responsible for assembling the close-knit group, Don Sweeney, has been honored with a nomination for GM of the Year.
"It's obviously a privilege to being acknowledged from your peer group," said Sweeney on Tuesday. "A lot of work goes in. Obviously, it shares a reflection of the organization overall - the support you get throughout. It's a little bit hard for us as the Boston Bruins to be fully on board and celebrating and such. But like I said, it's a testament to the organization overall to be here."
Sweeney's offseason acquisitions included Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom and John Moore, in addition to a pair of critical deadline trades that brought in Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson.
"We've done a good job of trying to vet out what type of player we'd like to bring into our locker room and the situations to give them an opportunity and hopefully they just assimilate," said Sweeney. "Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner and then we made two moves at the deadline. Testament to the players themselves, first of all. Both from the players coming in as well as the players receiving them. And our coaching staff can't go unrecognized to do what they do to get those players up to speed. And then you get a total buy in. That's really what a lot of our success was this year."
Video: GM Finalist, Sweeney at 2019 NHL Awards Media Day
That commitment to a common goal throughout the entire organization was a major reason for the deep run in the playoffs.
"We had total buy in and investments from the organization," said Sweeney. "From the top of the ownership all the way down to our equipment guys to our trainers, medical [staff], we really did a very good job in that regard."
Sweeney has experienced losing in a Cup Final as a player and wanted the 2018-19 Bruins to appreciate all they have sacrificed accomplished.
"Right away, I wanted the players themselves to acknowledge how proud we were of them and what they sacrificed," said Sweeney. "Down from themselves and their families. It's a long process to have an opportunity to be in that position. To earn to that opportunity. And they were so very, very close. I really wanted very little negative to come out of my conversations with them. After the game, you don't have the right words to console them at that point in time. But from an organization standpoint, knowing what they've done to get themselves there, we were very proud of the group."
With the season no less than a week in the rear view and the NHL draft approaching, Sweeney's focus has already shifted to the offseason.
"We've had organization meetings, draft related, pro meeting-wise," said Sweeney. "You have to temper discussions. You're not talking to other General Managers around the league while you're going through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But you come out of it and realize that you're making calls and other people are making calls and you have to make plans accordingly. You have decisions to make and the clock is not stopping for you. You have to flip the switch almost immediately."
The 2019 GM of the Year nominee may be in Vegas, but his focus remains on improving the next iteration of the Bruins in hopes of finishing the job.
"Players have to make adjustments to what their expectations are as well as individual teams," said Sweeney. "You're seeing player movement now and I think that will ramp up at the draft and through free agency, the interview periods and throughout the course of the summer. We all have challenges with our signing of our RFA players as well as our UFA guys but you have to do your planning accordingly. There will be adjustments made."