By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
On Thursday afternoon, Bruins team president Cam Neely emerged from the catacombs on Causeway Street to sit down with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Mazz show for the first time in almost a year. The burly B’s boss reluctantly agreed to the interview – something he had done on a weekly basis in years past – in order to address the firestorm that surrounded the timing of the firing of former head coach Claude Julien, that being smackdab in the middle of the Patriots championship parade on Tuesday.
Neely came prepared with notes, not wanting to go off script like he did last time he was on the same airways, and let the notorious nattering nabob of negativity Mike Felger get under his skin, causing Cam to drop an F-bomb in response to the talking-head’s prodding. Perhaps, Neely had the best of intentions for agreeing to grinding it out with Felger and cohost Tony Massarotti, but his performance was anything but comforting for Bruins fans.
He weakly defended the obvious story burying tactics the team used by announcing the decision to can Claude while the Boston sports world was bathing in the afterglow of the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, saying, “You have to understand, we knew we were going to get pounded for doing it on the day of the parade. We knew that going in.”
Clearly on the defensive, Neely called out the team’s biggest off-season acquisition David Backes, and veteran David Krejci saying Backes “has not played up to the expectations” the team had when they signed him; and saying that Krejci “is nowhere near playing the way he is capable of playing, in my opinion.”
And while he did acknowledge the need for the team to get better, and that they still have some considerable holes, the most interesting comments came when Felger pressed him on why he wasn’t at the presser Tuesday morning. “I don’t know how many presidents are answering [questions] with their GM when their GM makes a move,” an obviously agitated Neely retorted.
“What I don’t understand is why can’t people separate the fact that I am not the general manager, I’m the president,” the B’s top dog fired back. “So yes, Don must come to me and say ‘here is what I’m thinking of doing’ and I have to say ‘yes, I agree or no I disagree’.” Lastly, he added, “it’s not on me to go and address the media when the GM has fired the coach.”
I’m not sure where general manager Don Sweeney is getting his mail these days, but based on the way Neely spoke during the just over 20-minute interview, it sounds like he is on an island unto himself in the Bruins front office.
When asked if interim head coach Bruce Cassidy was added to the Bruins coaching staff this summer just in case the team decided to terminate him in season, Neely denied it. When pressed why it was Cassidy and not someone else on the staff by Massarotti, and whether he was an obvious choice, Cam replied, “Well, for Don it was.”
“He had a relationship with him while Don was heavily involved with Providence, and so for Don, it was the right guy for him,“ he added.
Anyone noticing a pattern here? Translation – Don’t look at me, I’m only the president; Don is the one making these decisions, so if anything goes wrong – like it has for the last handful of years – it is Don’s fault, not mine.
Please, give me a break. Last time I checked the title of president meant that you were responsible for what happened to whatever you were presiding over. I mean, Harry Truman had the sign “the buck stops here” for a reason, right?
While Neely may have thought by addressing the issue of the firing of Julien would lessen the concern surrounding his team – that is circling the playoff drain for the third consecutive season – the answers that he gave, and his cover your ass approach, had the opposite effect.
Anyone who thinks it is an “all for one, and one for all” approach in the offices on Causeway Street might as well have their head examined. By issuing a statement and letting Sweeney go it alone in that ill-timed press conference, was just the tip of the iceberg. With the comments he made regarding the dismissal of Julien, and the naming of Cassidy as interim head coach, Neely was distancing himself from his handpicked GM, just in case his team goes down like the Titanic once again.
As the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa noted in a piece that ran earlier this week, Neely is in cahoots with Jeremy Jacobs little boy, writing that “Neely is tight with CEO Charlie Jacobs, son of owner Jeremy Jacobs. Neither presidents nor sons of owners usually find themselves in the firing line.” And while he sees Sweeney surviving as well if things go down the drain again at the Garden this year, it is clear that Neely is now putting up defenses to be sure he isn’t the one who takes the sword for the Bruins continuing fall from grace.
The last question that was asked of the B’s president on 98.5 was why he didn’t do weekly interviews anymore. “It’s painful,” he replied. “You guys are painful.”
Kind of like watching the product on the ice that you have decimated over the last few years, eh Cam?