By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
All that was missing from the Bruins end-of-year press conference with owner Jeremy Jacobs, CEO Charlie Jacobs and president Cam Neely, was seeing the three of them hold hands and sing kumbaya. The B’s owner – who really should just limit his public remarks to press releases; because despite his best efforts, he always comes across as a real-life Montgomery Burns whenever he gets behind a microphone – was apparently happy with his team’s progression this past campaign that ended with a 4-2 first-round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“I think we had a successful season because of what evolved, the changing of the guard in our coaching ranks, and I think our leadership showed itself very well,” said JJ, whose words were no doubt music to Neely’s ears.
The awkward public speaker, and czar of the multi-billion dollar Delaware North company added, “As it did evolve, I think the correction was good and I think we did a tremendous job once we had Butch [Bruce Cassidy] in place, so I’m happy with where we are and I’m happy with the next generation of players coming into this organization.”
Translation – At least this year, we got a couple of pure-profit playoff games to fill my already overflowing coffers.
There is no arguing that the ownership of the Bruins has allowed the B’s brass to spend money since the salary cap was put in place for the 2005-06 season. In fact, their willingness to turn the limited purse strings over to the likes of former general manager Peter Chiarelli, is the reason why the team is in what they hope is the tail end of an almost complete rebuild.
However, keep in mind, it was Jacobs and former team president/general manager/cheap bean-counter Harry Sinden, who were the driving force behind the NHL owner being able to have a fixed cost in place when it came to player’s contract expenditures. And while Sinden, and then GM Mike O’Connell proved utterly inept in the system they so coveted; Sinden achieved his life-long mission of limiting what players can make in the league.
In a pillow-soft landing spot interview before the first game of the playoff series against the Sens at the Garden with NESN’s Dale Arnold, JJ gushed about the team’s now senior adviser Sinden’s time as GM, saying, “I really got spoiled when Harry was here, back then. We had the longest run in the history of sports, making the playoffs. And you anticipated it, and take it for granted.”
What he forgot to mention, was the fact that the team never won a Stanley Cup under Sinden. For as good as he was as a general manager – the Neely for Barry Pederson and a draft pick trade in 1986, was among his best moves ever – he was much better as the Bruins banker. Harry knew hockey, and he also knew how to build single line centric teams that could dominate in the regular season; but never had the firepower or depth to compete with the championship caliber teams in the NHL.
If you were to slip the Bruins owner some truth serum, I’d be willing to bet the mortgage that he would say he would rather have another 20 something consecutive run making the playoffs, then he would winning another Cup or two in the next five to ten years. Certainly, if it meant he had to give up some of his precious playoff paydays along the way to make it work.
There is little doubt that Neely, and his hand-picked general manager Don Sweeney, would like to construct a championship team under their watch. The question that is the elephant in the room, do they know how to do it?
For all the hope that they have in the kids that a currently either in their system, or in the pipeline to be part of the system; keep in mind, that they were selected by Keith Gretzky, who is now serving as Chiarelli’s assistant GM in Edmonton. Those responsibilities are now that of assistant general manager Scott Bradley, who served as the director of player development under Chiarelli, and we all know how that worked out.
Nevertheless, one gets the feeling from the satisfaction that the Bruins owner seemingly felt from merely making the playoffs this season; that the guy that ultimately signs the paychecks for the B’s brass, is more concerned about consistently building a team that can simply qualify for the playoffs – and thus add to an already bulging bottom line – and less concerned with building one that can win another Cup.