It was always going to be an offseason of rumors and innuendo for the Bruins, par for the course when you crash out in the first round of the playoffs.
Many fans headed into the offseason wondering whether or not GM Don Sweeney was long for his job, especially after he noted yesterday that he’s only under contract for “this season.”
President of Hockey Operations Cam Neely threw cold water on that idea at his media availability today, but stirred up a whole new controversy in the process.
Neely noted that he spoke with the Jacobs Family about extending Sweeney’s contract after the trade deadline, and that both he and the Jacobs are on the same page about getting something done.
“I really wanted to see how the year went. We had a lot of changes in the last offseason, so I just really wanted to see how that played out,” said Neely on the reason for the delayed extension. “ I was happy with what he did at the deadline.”
Okay, so that’s probably the end of the “Sweeney Out!” talk. Controversy over, right?
Well...not so much.
After talking up his GM and saying that a contract extension, Neely was asked about bringing Bruce Cassidy back as head coach, something that seemed a foregone conclusion prior to the press conference.
“I think we have to look at making some changes as far as how we play and the way we do some of the things,” said Neely. “I think Bruce is a fantastic coach...he’s brought a lot of success to this organization. I like him as a coach. So, we’ll see where it goes. But I do think we need to make some changes. And I think Bruce, a couple of days ago, alluded to that. So, we’ll see where that goes with that.”
Talk about a ringing endorsement!
It’s one thing to say “I think we need to make some changes, and as Bruce noted the other day, we look forward to working with him on that.”
It’s another to end that answer with “we’ll see where that goes with that.”
In answers to some other questions, Neely noted frustration at the team’s inability to adapt to Carolina standing up to their rush attempts and the team’s futility at gaining the zone on the power play.
In his media availability earlier this week, Sweeney was more sparing in his criticism of coaching, saying the staff works hard, is willing to dig in and improve, etc.
So...where does this leave us? Hard to say.
It’s possible (likely, even) that Neely’s comments weren’t meant with as much weight as they sounded, and that it’s more of a “we just want to make some tweaks and get everyone on the same page.”
The most likely scenario to me would be a new assistant or two — not the departure of Cassidy.
If you polled most Bruins fans, the blame for the team’s shortcomings would be laid at the feet of Sweeney, not Cassidy.
Speaking for the group, it seems most had their frustrations with Cassidy, but also think he did a decent job with the pieces he was given (“second-line center by committee” in particular).
Overall, the Bruins appear to be in a very delicate place right now: their franchise-legend 1C may or may not return. Their GM is without a contract. Their President wants to get more involved in on-ice X’s and O’s.
Should be a fun summer!