Yesterday it was announced that former Bruins player and assistant general manager Don Sweeney was taking over Peter Chiarelli's gig as the big club's general manager. After a press conference earlier in the day, "GM Sweens" took to the tweet machine to answer questions from fans and media alike. He responded quickly and thoroughly for nearly an hour, so we picked out some of his more notable responses.
"What do you think the team as a whole needs to improve in order to return to the playoffs next season?"
Speed, grit and offensive production https://t.co/GJ5s0UyIHV— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Cliches aside, something Sweeney notes early and often is the teams need for speed. Looking at the remaining teams in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, all four teams have a handful of players that the Bruins would have trouble keeping up with. While grit is a staple in the Bruins lexicon, and offensive production is simply self-explanatory, emphasizing skill is a change of pace for the Bruins. I acknowledge that in a copy-cat league, the ebbs and flows will often lead to different styles prevailing. But even if speed is a cliche, it's still a need of the team.
"Don, do you think big, physical teams (i.e., "Bruins Hockey") still have a place in today's speedy, skilled NHL?"
Yes I do. I think a blend of speed, skill and physicality are crucial to playoff success https://t.co/WUAe0FSEjv— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Again, speed and skill are at the forefront of what Sweeney is looking for. Hell, as I write this I'm watching Ondrej Palat fly down the wing and into the slot, Steven Stamkos throwing monstrous hits, and Alex Killorn outlast King Hank with a ridiculous toe-drag. Understanding the right mix gives you the identity you need to challenge for a Cup, not just one thing. If it were just physicality Matt Martin would be Captain of the Bruins and be winning the Conn Smythe for the third year in a row. It's not about just adding physicality, it's about adding the right role players that play a winning style of hockey.
"Does 'being hard to play against' include more than just physicality, grit, and having fighters on the roster?"
Bergeron classifies as a player who is hard to play against and who has skill. We need to find a balance https://t.co/0nVu8vWMmZ— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Hey there! So, I asked this mainly because ever since the firing of Chiarelli, a large amount of the criticism I heard was that Cam noting the team needs to be "hard to play against" meant that he and the rest of the front office wanted a team of Adam McQuaids and Kevan Millers and Bobby Robins...es. Here, Sweeney debunks that myth. Players like Bergeron and Marchand are so good on the penalty kill because they're relentless. They're hard to play against, not the most physically imposing skaters on the ice. I may be partial, but this was one of Sweeney's most telling responses, since it shows he (and possibly Cam) aren't looking to recreate the Big Bad Bruins.
"What position are you going to try and improve and is free agency or draft the way to go?"
Both free agency and the draft are vehicles to improving the speed and will of the club https://t.co/SXNENatYFS— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Two notes from this response. First, another mention of adding speed and will/desire/aggression to the team. But also, Sweeney notes using the avenue of free agency. This is most notable because as they are currently constituted, the team doesn't have a great deal of cap room. If they truly want to add talent via free agency, they'll have to shed some current roster players.
"Will the Bruins look to emphasize more speed on the ice for next season?"
Yes, in our transition game and our puck pursuit https://t.co/8DGPmnvvRp— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Another acknowledgment of the teams identity moving towards a quicker, more aggressive game. Being quick is crucial, whether it's on the forecheck, backcheck, or on the rush. GM Sweens wasn't afraid to bring up the team's need for offensive production both in his tweets and during his press conference, and emphasized turning defense into offense and doing so with a fast-paced transition game.
"Any update on signing Zane McIntyre?"
Zane has decided to leave North Dakota and is committed to the Boston Bruins. We are excited about that. https://t.co/e0meju1ylp— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
We learned kinda out of the blue that Zane Don't-Call-Me-Gothberg McIntyre not only will not return to the NoDak for his senior year, but he will sign with the Bruins. This is huge, as it was previously assumed Malcolm Subban would be handed the backup job for next year with Svedbest headed to the KHL. Even if Zane doesn't make the NHL roster next season, he'll likely challenge for a spot and ensure the best backup possible gets the job.
"Will rookies players/players in Providence continue to be given chances to succeed on the main roster?"
All young players will have a chance to succeed if they are ready to play and help us win https://t.co/20qwM9xvGs— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
'Sup Sky! Sweeney will undoubtedly have an appreciation for the youth movement. He led the charge in Providence, and watched guys like Spooner, Pastrnak, and Khokhlachev progress. Even if he leans a little more on the kids, falling in love with draft picks is a safer and cheaper option than falling in love with current or former players.
"Is Subban going to be the full time backup?"
Having confidence in the backup position is a key offseason decision. Subban will be a part of that discussion. https://t.co/rno2Xo638S— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Again, no guarantee on Malcolm's role for next year. After a killer rookie year in the AHL, Subban had a bit of a sophomore slump, albeit a minor one. Then again Niklas Svedberg was promoted after he too had a breakout season followed by a down year. My guess is still that Subban gets the gig, but with Zane headed East and the possibility of a veteran backup still open, it's going to make for an interesting battle.
"How important is it to keep the core group of players together? Also, how big a factor is chemistry in your opinion?"
The core group is key in creating chemistry as well as integrating younger players into our lineup https://t.co/Z5RSYzQOdY— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
The word "core" has a bit of a negative connotation these days. Because when Bruins fans hear "core", we picture the faces of Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille. But looking at the question and answer here, what I
take away hope is that he means core Top 6 players. Core guys like Bergeron, Marchand, Hamilton. And the bottom six? That will be more heavily influenced by the integration of younger players. It's how Krejci became Krejci in 2008. It's how Marchand became Marchand in 2011. You keep the core players, and don't block your promising young players from filling the rest of the rosters.
"How do you feel about the current lines, any plans of mixing it up?"
We will have changes in personnel so our lines will be different https://t.co/rYhIQTNS9x— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
This was the tweet of the hour, if you ask me. Unless he's an expert troll, I don't think Sweeney said this in jest. This doesn't mean "Paille and Campbell are gone, so we have to have different lines." It means we need to change the roster, and therefore we'll be integrating new players. Sweeney is going to be aggressive out of the gate to put the most effective team on the ice each night.
Also something glaring that I didn't notice on my first read--Sweeney doesn't say 'roster', but instead used 'personnel'. I know he wasn't committing to Claude for next season with any sort of confidence, but saying personnel here may be a Freudian slip, indicating that he may keep some roster players, but a new coach may shuffle them differently.
"Do you foresee the salary cap being a problem again this offseason as it was last offseason? How do you plan to remedy that?"
We would certainly like to have more flexibility and player personnel changes will play a major role in that https://t.co/xoqbFMjDsE— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
A major role. Major. When working around the cap predicament the team is in, it's the obvious avenue, but something that so few would openly admit. Sweeney expressing his willingness to shed cap via personnel changes is a welcome change from the contract extensions and no-trade clauses we've become accustomed to. It also may spell the end for players like Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg.
"[tweet deleted]", but it was in regards to the status of Lucic, possibly his contract.
Milan is a foundational player that we would like to continue to have part of the organization https://t.co/gDajxr1ks8— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
Much like his qualifications when speaking of coach for today Claude Julien, Sweeney saying that he would like to continue to have Milan Lucic doesn't spell any certainty for the Bruins power forward. Obviously for the team production next year, the Bruins would like Lucic. But when looking at the big picture, Sweeney sounds at least somewhat open to the reality that Milan's time with the Bruins may be coming to a close.
"What's the plan with Coach Julien?"
I'll meet with Coach Julien to discuss player personnel and his coaching philosophy on a more aggressive system https://t.co/lee2n4JQRW— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
The word aggressive here could be looked at in a few different ways. You could say that the Dallas Stars played an aggressive system, which allowed them and their Art Ross winner to put up some of the best offensive production in the league this year. It also gave them one of the worst defenses in the NHL. But adding aggression to the system isn't telling Claude Julien to coach a run-and-gun style of play. It's telling him to equally way his offense as much as his defense. Sweeney clearly wants to add players that can put the puck in the net, and he doesn't want them sitting due to being labeled defensive liabilities. If CJ can allow himself to tweak his system and style just enough--which I think and hope he can--then I wouldn't be shocked to see Jules behind the bench to start the season in October.
"How much stock will the
@NHLBruins put into advanced hockey statistics going forward?"
Advanced statistics will certainly play a role in game to game analysis and player performance. https://t.co/D5DauX05KN— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 20, 2015
This is a key admission by the Bruins staff. Not that Chiarelli was a stranger to advanced statistics, but Sweens saying that these types of advanced stats will play a role not only in roster building, but from game to game, shows how much he believes in the numbers. More than anything, this puts players like Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller on the hot seat, since the eye test doesn't really showcase how much of a detriment they are to the team. Unless, you know, you want to judge players solely on blind stats like plus/minus.
Also, GM Sweens. I might know a guy who knows a guy who you could hire...