- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Less than a week after watching his team’s season end prematurely at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins president Cam Neely insisted his squad needs just “a few tweaks” and not a shakeup moving forward.
“We did have a great regular season. We fell short in the second round, which disappoints everybody so we want to reevaluate where we think we could improve upon and look at that as opposed to major overhauls,” Neely said Tuesday, reiterating the message general manager Peter Chiarelli delivered late last week. “When we have the regular season we had, especially the stretch from March in to 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.”
Despite the early exit following a Presidents Trophy-winning season, owner Jeremy Jacobs said he remains confident in the Bruins’ management and coaching groups.
“This was sort of a tale of two seasons,” said Jacobs, who was flanked by Neely at the team’s annual end-of-season news conference. “One of them, 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 change. I think keeping the organization together is one of their objectives and two is to improve on it.”
So, since the organizational word is “tweak” this offseason, the adjustments to the roster shouldn’t be major. As far as the team’s unrestricted free agents, Neely said he would like veteran forward Jarome Iginla to re-sign with the Bruins.
“I thought he started out a little slow, then he came on,” Neely said. “He came on late and he came on strong. Obviously he’s a leader, he was the captain of another team for a long time and he came in and added an element to our group, especially the forward group. He ended up scoring 30 goals, which is not easy in this league anymore, and we would like to try and see if we can figure something out moving forward with him. We will see where that goes, but I thought he fit in really well with our team.”
In regard to free agent Shawn Thornton, Neely said the hockey operations group would soon gather and discuss what the team will look like moving forward.
Chiarelli did say last week when asked about Thornton that the league is trending away from fisticuffs, and the GM told the veteran pugilist he would need a few weeks before deciding on Thornton’s future with the Bruins.
“I still believe that we like the physical game and physical play, which at times leads to dropping the gloves,” Neely said. “But there’s always been a lot of talk, primarily with the media, about if fighting is still necessary in our game. I think with the way the game’s played and how it is played and how physical it is, I still feel it is still part of the game. But where it goes, you see from like '70s, '80s, '90s, it’s a little different or probably still trending that way, yes.”
Boston’s inexperience on the blue line factored into their second-round playoff loss to the Canadiens. While the Bruins acknowledged this after the series was over, the management and coaching staffs believe that experience will only help next season.
Neely also admitted the team was close to a deal at the trade deadline for a defenseman but it fell through. At the time of the deadline, the Bruins were in the midst of their best stretch of hockey. If the deal had been completed, it would have been a bonus, he said.
Neely didn’t blame the inexperience on the blue line as the sole reason for their playoff loss. So, what was it?
“We got away from playing how we need to play to be successful,” Neely said. “I don’t want to take anything away from how Montreal played. They played a great series against us but we didn’t play our type of hockey that you saw over the course of the regular season, especially at the end of the season.”
Neely focused on the team’s inability to get pucks deep and sustain a solid forecheck against the Canadiens. He said Boston wasn’t able to create multiple scoring opportunities on Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
“For us, when you look at our team and the way we play, we are a team that usually can wear other teams down and create more scoring opportunities, which we just didn’t do,” Neely said.
While changes to the team are inevitable, Neely said the Bruins’ style of play will not change, especially given the new playoff format and knowing there’s a chance of facing the same teams in the first couple of rounds each season.
“We’ve built a pretty good team, a successful team,” Neely said. “This year is probably especially disappointing because of the regular season that we had and how we felt that we could be more successful in the playoffs. So again, we will get together shortly and meet as a group and talk about what we think we need to do to improve.”