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Transcript For General Manager Don Sweeney's Media Availability on June 5 in Buffalo

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS MEDIA AVAILABILITY

Friday, June 5, 2015

BOSTON BRUINS GENERAL MANAGER DON SWEENEY MEDIA AVAILABILITY AT 12:00 P.M.
On a decision being made on Julien and his staff…
Absolutely. There’s people that have asked me. I would have addressed this before I had left for the combine if I had the opportunity in a group like this. I had really good discussions with Claude and all of our staff and, unequivocally, we’re moving forward with our group. I feel very good about that and I’m actually meeting with them again tomorrow as they’ve been going over some stuff internally that they had been discussing at the end of the season that I haven’t had a chance to meet with them as a group that way. So I’m really excited. I referenced some of the changes that I think our group moving forward I would like to see make and those guys have already been working on some of those things. So that part of it is really exciting for me. There’s been a little bit of question mark of the timing of maybe me being able to proclaim this, but to be honest with you, this is the first opportunity I’ve had in that regard. I know there’s been speculation so I want to make sure to put that to bed. I’m fully supporting this staff and looking forward to working with them all.

On the decision to not make changes to the staff…  
I had because I needed to have conversations with each and every one of them to see if they were in agreement and not everybody is going to be perfect in line with each other and that’s the beauty of everybody bringing things to the table to challenge each other. That’s one of the things I was open about. I have a lot of respect for each and every one of them as people and the warmth that they’ve done, the hard work they do each and every day. The success we’ve had as an organization is a result of a lot of that hard work and I want to make sure I took that all into account as I was speaking with them at a different level for me.  It might not be as different for them. Obviously it’s a different voice, but it’s different for me. This is a new role for me. It’s my first opportunity to talk with coaches as general manager. Not going to apologize for taking a little time to go through that process, to be honest with you. I think it was right for me to do that and I’ve been completely respectful, as I’ve said, their success and I’m going to use that to my advantage. They’ve been part of a group and they work hard and I’m looking forward to enjoying it.

The speculation that the group is on a short leash…
Well it’s an uncomfortable business. We missed the playoffs but we had a team with 96 points. We had some adversity and some things thrown at us. I just want to go to work and see the progress that we need to make. That’s part of the roster, that’s part of the scouting staff - that’s why we’re having a meeting here – that’s across the board. I don’t think anybody accepts a job in this business without feeling some level of uncomfortable and uneasiness in terms of the result. It’s a performance-based industry and we all have to understand that. You have to understand that as a player and you certainly have to understand that as a management group.

On what Julien said, did or his body of work that convinced you that he’s the guy that can lead the team…
Well it’s all of the above to be honest with you. He’s got a great accountability structure, he’s had a lot of success, he’s a veteran coach that I’m going to look forward to learning from as I stay in my new role and he communicated to me that he had already been thinking of some of the changes that I had spoken about and he was looking forward to attacking that. Clearly that’s going to revolve around some roster decisions as well. I think it’s all of the above and I’m going to lean on those guys and see what they bring to the table and I’m hoping it’s the other way around. That was part of it for me, to make sure they knew that my voice was going to be heard and respected in that regard.

On the coach’s opinions of why the team didn’t make the playoffs…
As I mentioned there was certainly some adversity, there were some roster changes that have occurred over the last couple of years. We kept a group together that had a tremendous amount of success. Each one of them should be proud of all that success. But we do have to move a little bit in a different direction and we’re in a little bit of a crossroads in that regard. They were anxious to know how their coaching philosophies and what they addressed needed to be changed and how that was going to be received by me and vice versa. So we went through that stuff and the personnel pieces, those things still have to unfold. We have some decisions to make internally and we have to do that with the dates coming up, we’ll be exploring every option to improve the hockey club. And they’ll have input in terms of the guys that they think can continue to do things that they like to do as well as some of the things that we need to do going forward.

On the coach’s opinions of what needs to change for next year…
Well I think the transition game is part of what they would like to address. I’m not going to—I have a meeting tomorrow with them so I’m looking forward to hearing all of them. It’s an area that I spoke about. Being able to get on offense a little bit quicker. I love the structure and accountability that they bring to our table defensively. We’re not going to abandon that as a hockey club. I think our forwards work extremely hard, I just want to be able to get into the flow of the offensive game a little quicker and again, some of it is going to be personnel and some is going to be system stuff that we have to address and utilize to the best of our ability.

On being more proactive on breakouts and less safe…
We’re going to look at all three zones and how we attack and certainly address why some of the guys didn’t score at the same level they did in previous years and why we have to address that. So there’s not going to be one area that we’re just going to pick on. We’re going to look at all three zones as well as the roster to say this is how we need to play and put forth a real good game plan. Make some adjustments accordingly as we need to throughout the season because you’re going to have twists and turns in terms of injuries and such but we’re going to work together on it.

On looking ahead to the draft…
Well I think you’re getting a broad perspective of players at this point in time. Obviously our scouts have worked tremendously hard all year long to identify the players that they would like to draft and that’s part of me. I really want our scouts to identify the guys that they really, really want. They want to play for the Boston Bruins, they want to identify, they fit in with our culture and the identity that we want to have going forward. So the best player available, it may or may not fit in that situation. It might be a need based a little bit, but we really want the players that they think are the best players that identify with the way we want to play going forward. So I’m excited about that. We’re going to get a really good player at 14 and throughout the draft, I think there’s depth there. We’ve met some tremendous kids here throughout the week and they’re well coached, they’re well prepared in these situations. They’ll be poked and prodded here in the next couple days in a fitness standpoint. It’s all part of the process each and every one of us are fully invested in.

On what separates McDavid and Eichel from everybody else in the draft…
I mean they’re foundational type players. Clearly the opportunity to select either one of them, in my recent time, it mirrors two players that we were [looking at] when we were one and two and the situation appears. There will always be surprises throughout the draft lower on that players will rise up over time and they don’t view themselves as being separated from the other two. To be honest with you, each and every one of these guys that have come in through the door to proclaim their own confidence in their abilities. And you love to see that in players. It may take them a little longer to get there, where as other players have been deemed ready-made. Those two players on a national scale have had certainly identified themselves as such and there’s a reason for that as to why they’re ranked that way. But that’s not to cast any stones against the players that are grouped around them or slightly below. There’s always going to be surprises and we’re looking forward to evaluating the whole group.

On you picking between McDavid or Eichel…
I don’t get that option, unless I can swing a real big deal.

On hitting on Pastrnak at the 25th pick, and getting another guy that can contribute right away…
You know, it’s hard to imagine looking back that we thought David [Pastrnak] would be playing this year to be honest with you. He just kept getting better with everything that was thrown at him throughout the course of the year. So I don’t think I can sit here today without having a player that we will select amongst our group to be able to evaluate that fully. There are certainly guys that can step in and play and other guys that think they can. Again I like that part of the confidence piece of these kids nowadays that at times it might be a little unrealistic as they decide to go up against some of the guys that they’ll see in camp for the first time, even though they’ve had success. But other guys, they stub their toe and all of a sudden they get solid footing and they can, and David is a little bit of an example. He had some growing pains the first part of the year but you looked at him at the end of the year and realized that wow that was a pretty productive year for a young player.

On there being a position you are favoring drafting…
I don’t think we’ll go into a need based. We really want the best player that fits what we want to do going forward. Certainly we’ve identified within our group, within our organization that we have needs in areas that we’d like to address. But you’re not going to force feed a player into that or shoehorn him into that situation. I think our guys are excited about where they have their list. We’re going to go back over it for a little while. I’ve got some talks out there, some people that may or not move up or down the ladder. So that might adjust accordingly. If you do have a player that you really coveted or a player that you feel that you need to slide back and a grouping of players will be there and you feel equally comfortable with.

On which positions you need to strengthen…
Well I think we have depth in goal at this point in time that I’m very comfortable with. Depends on the spacing of things. But I still wouldn’t balk at if our guys feel that this is a player down the road—who’s ever going to turn down a guy that’s got a chance to develop into a National Hockey League goaltender? Starter or backup. We’re just going to attack the draft overall. Again we’ve identified some areas in our internal structure that we’d like to improve but we’ve even addressed a little bit of that in the free agency period with some players that can come in and challenge. Again we’re just looking to attack the draft with the best players that fit the identity and style that we want to play going forward and what works in the National Hockey League. You got to pick players that are going to play, that’s the bottom line.

On having an on-ice component of the combine…
We look at the prospect game in January as a unique experience to come in on a separate day and watch the kids skate. Whether or not it’s a certain pattern that helps us or whatever, but there are certain things that stand out with players that you can apply through the course of the season. I don’t think there’s any one way to do it. The time of the season, right now for them to go out and do a skate might not be ideal. Some of them have been off the ice, some have just finished. So I think that part of it is a little unfair. You’ll see that a little bit even with the test results. Kids that have literally just finished the memorial cup and then bounce themselves in here and other kids have been training for well over a month. So there’s not any one thing—I think the body of work over the course of the year. If our scouts can’t evaluate the guys that are skating then we’re in trouble in that regard or areas in need of improvement. So I wouldn’t say we need to fully endorse it. I think it would be a nice tool, but the timing is such so I don’t know that it’s in the best interest of the individual players.

On holding the combine at an ice arena leads to consideration of a skating portion…
Absolutely. I don’t think any General Manager or strength and conditions coach or anybody would say well ‘I don’t want the information’. Everybody is going to be selfish in that regard and say sure, but if you ask me flat out whether or not it’s best for the players I can’t answer that honestly to say that it is. As I said, some guys haven’t been on the ice for a period of time. There’s big belief now with injuries on certain kids that they’ve been doing this repetitive motion since the time they can walk and it shows up. So maybe it’s time to go off and do the training that you need to do and be ready for the next challenge as opposed to the one that you’ve just currently been going through.

On the number of players invited to the combine…
That’s a tough one. To sort of get down on the bottom and select one person over another, sometimes it’s purely subjective as to what other people have seen versus haven’t seen. That sometimes sends a message to a player that you don’t belong in this group, but that’s not necessarily right either because as I said there’s going to be surprises. There are going to be people here that are drafted that haven’t been invited to that and you turn around and say why wouldn’t you? You can argue either way. They have to come up with a group and a size that fits. Doesn’t mean the other teams won’t bring in players that weren’t part of this because they’ve identified guys that they like. And they might have been, at times, should have been part of the combine. Make them feel better about it. So I don’t think there’s any magic number that anybody can point to and say ok that’s the ideal. The group kind of self-selects in that regard and you have to kind of fit it within numbers that you can keep.
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