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Owner Jacobs believes Bruins are Cup contenders

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- After the Boston Bruins failed to defend their 2011 Stanley Cup championship and lost in seven games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal to the Washington Capitals in 2012, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said the Cup was now on loan until his team could bring it back to Boston.

Jacobs didn't expect he would have to wait long.

But the Bruins' loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round this season extended the loan period to three years. The Bruins took a couple of steps back, winning one Stanley Cup Playoff round a year after losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

Addressing the media Tuesday, Jacobs reaffirmed his faith in Boston's management group, led by president Cam Neely and general manager Peter Chiarelli.

"This was sort of a tale of two seasons," Jacobs said during a press conference at TD Garden. "We had the best team in the National Hockey League during the regular season and it was our expectation to carry that on fully and it didn't happen.

"I have a great deal of confidence in the management. Obviously they put together a team that did perform the best, as I say the best in the National Hockey League. As they look to organize this going forward, I don't think they are looking at a massive change. I think they are looking at tweaking it as opposed to doing any serious changes. I think keeping the organization together is one of their objectives, and two is to improve on it."

The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy with a 54-19-9 record in the regular season. They defeated the Detroit Red Wings in five games in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Canadiens.

The Bruins have kept much of their core together for several seasons, beginning with the veteran group that led the team during the Stanley Cup championship season. Now management must determine if the team as constituted was best represented during the regular season, which featured a 12-game winning streak and 16-game point streak in March, or the playoffs, which ended with Boston losing a 3-2 series lead to Montreal and scoring one goal in their last two games.

Forwards Jarome Iginla, who shared the Bruins lead with 30 goals, and Shawn Thornton, an integral hard-working player and leader, are the only major players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1. Neely said the organization is determining a plan for those players. Defenseman Torey Krug and forward Reilly Smith are the biggest names among Boston's handful of restricted free agents. Several key veteran players have no-trade clauses.

All in all, it doesn't appear there will be much change to the Bruins roster.

"I think we look at really just tweaking our team," Neely said. "We did have a great regular season. We fell short in the second round, which disappoints everybody. So we want to re-evaluate where we think we could improve upon and look at that as opposed to a major overhaul. I think when you have the regular season that we had, especially that stretch from March into April, that wasn't luck. We were a good team. And we still feel we have a good team, and maybe need a few tweaks."

Since the salary cap was adopted in 2005-06, the Bruins have always spent close to the maximum amount permitted by the NHL. Neely said ownership has assured him that will continue. Much of the Bruins' spending has been used to keep the core together, starting with goaltender Tuukka Rask, defenseman Zdeno Chara and center Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have identified defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg, and forwards David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand as building blocks of a championship-caliber team.

Although Chara turned 37 this season, Neely said he doesn't think the window of opportunity for another championship by the Bruins' cast has closed too much.

"I feel, because of the way we played in the regular season, we haven't fallen off the cliff," Neely said. "We didn't play as well as we needed to play in the second round. As a group, we didn't play the way we were playing in March and in April.

"Aside from maybe [Chara], our core group is still relatively young. You're talking mid-to-late 20s, maybe. And Zdeno is still, in my opinion, the best defender in the game. So I still think we're in our window. We just have to recognize what we need to do to make our team better, whether it's guys playing better or whether we're adding different players."

Jacobs agrees the Bruins have the makings of a team that won't let the Stanley Cup drought last too long, thanks largely to the foresight of those he's empowered in the front office.

"I think management has a lot to do with [it]. In hockey, it's more evolutionary than revolutionary in the sense that you evolve these teams, you evolve these players and you have the opportunity to do it," Jacobs said. "It's a team sport, not so much a star sport. We're seeing more of that. So I think what you're seeing is what I consider to be an extraordinarily well-managed team. Spent a lot of time at that level, and I think we're harvesting, again, that investment in this 'institution.' So I expect this to continue on into the future."

Possibly a future where the Stanley Cup stops being on loan and again belongs to the Bruins.

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