Don Sweeney hired as Bruins GM, proving this is Cam Neely’s show

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Don Sweeney hired as Bruins GM, proving this is Cam Neely’s show
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The Boston Bruins named Don Sweeney, their assistant general manager, as the team’s next general manager, ending weeks of speculation that the Bruins would hire Don Sweeney, their assistant general manager, as the team’s next general manager. 

Oh, there were other candidates. Former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee was in the running. So was Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton.

The Boston Globe seemed convinced that the Bruins were going to wait out New York Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton, their former assistant GM, who is credited with building the Rangers into a Cup contender. He reportedly had the backing of the Jacobs family and former GM Harry Sinden, who was advising team president Cam Neely in the GM search.

But for whatever reason – timing, or perhaps the Rangers’ or Gorton’s desire not to have him slip to the Bruins – it’s not Gorton. It’s Sweeney.

Seriously, how anticlimactic? OK, it could still be climactic if Sweeney decides to fire coach Claude Julien, who isn’t listed among the participants in Tuesday’s press conference.

Sweeney replaces Peter Chiarelli, who was snatched up by the Edmonton Oilers like the Bruins dropped a hundred dollar bill from their pocket. (American dollars, ‘natch.)

Here’s the official release from the Bruins.

"Don Sweeney stood out amongst an incredibly talented group of candidates that we considered for this hire," said Jacobs. "He carries a unique and impressive mix of playing experience, front office experience and business acumen. Don has complete understanding of what it means to be a Bruin and we have full confidence in him to steward the organization back to being Stanley Cup contenders year in and year out."

”Don has excelled in every role he has been in with the Bruins organization and has a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of our hockey operations department," said Neely. "His commitment and drive to bring a championship caliber team to the Boston fans was evident every step of the way through this search process, and I am confident that his leadership of our hockey operations department will lead to success."

“I am both excited and humbled for the opportunity to be named the General Manager of the Boston Bruins,” said Sweeney. “I would like to thank the entire Jacobs’ family and specifically Mr. Jacobs and Charlie, as well as, Cam for bestowing the confidence and trust in me to direct this historic franchise in which I have been a part of for 24 years. My family and friends have been extremely supportive throughout the General Manager search process and I certainly want to acknowledge them today to show my heartfelt appreciation. I am fully aware of everyone’s expectations to move the organization forward. The challenges ahead rests with the players, the coaches and the management group to work hard to make the necessary changes to bring the Bruins back to the forefront of contending for the Stanley Cup.”

In his role as General Manager, Sweeney will be in charge of every aspect of the team's hockey operations.

Appointed to his new post, Sweeney becomes the eighth GM in Bruins' franchise history. Sweeney, 48, will enter his 10th season in the Bruins' front office after serving the past six years as Assistant General Manager. He joined the Bruins in 2006 as the team's Director of Player Development and was named to the position of Director of Hockey Operations in July, 2007 before being promoted to Assistant General Manager in September of 2009.

As Assistant GM, he oversaw the development of the team's drafted prospects at the AHL, junior hockey, college and European levels in addition to having a supervisory role in the day-to-day operations of the hockey department. His portfolio expanded further in 2014 when he was appointed as General Manager of Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence where he oversaw all hockey operations for that franchise. Sweeney organized and ran the team's first off-season Development Camp in July, 2007, bringing the club's top prospects to Boston in advance of the main September training camp and will hold the ninth such camp in the summer of 2015.

Now, what does this mean for “Bruins Hockey” as we know it?

It could mean a new coach. And if Julien does go, he’ll be snatched up by someone faster than you can say “Chiarelli to Edmonton.”

From the Globe:

He will have to make a decision on Claude Julien. The coach’s extension activates in 2015-16, and the Bruins would be responsible for Julien’s contract if they let him go.

Bruce Cassidy, Providence’s head coach the last four seasons, would be a candidate to replace Julien. Sweeney holds Cassidy in high regard.

Chances are that Sweeney, with Neely’s input, has already been thinking about Julien’s future, just as he has been studying the roster. This is the luxury of promoting a GM from within. Sweeney is familiar with everything. Daily activities will not change abruptly once he lands the job. The Bruins do not need disruption.

Going internal is an interested choice on several fronts for the Bruins. It’s clear they have several contracts to hand out and tough calls to make regarding roster players: Dougie Hamilton is an RFA. Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly go UFA in 2016. Torey Krug goes RFA in 2016.

Do you trade a David Krejci? Or a Brad Marchand? Or, gulp, a Zdeno Chara?

While having a critical eye from outside the organization could help make those calls easier, having someone that helped build that roster lends an insider expertise to who stays and who goes.

But ultimately, Sweeney’s hiring means that Cam Neely is the one making these calls. Not to diminish Sweeney’s acumen as an executive, but this is Neely’s show.

Outside of spiking Julien this summer, are we really going to see a dramatic shift in “Bruins Hockey?”

Potentially.

Please recall Neely’s words after firing Chiarelli:

As president, Neely will instruct his GM to build a roster according to his vision. The GM will then execute the trade calls or draft picks to acquire the players Neely prefers.

“Get this guy,” Neely will say, or, “I don’t like that guy. Move him.”

Neely acknowledged the Bruins need skill and speed. But he also doesn’t want to go short on muscle. That could mean heavier legs. The Bruins don’t need any more of those.

“We got away a little bit from our identity that we had in the past,” Neely said. “I don’t think we were as hard a team to play against as we like to be and were in the past. I thought that got us some success. Our transition game probably needs some improvement, so getting the puck out of our end and through the neutral zone. I think we’ve got to find ways to create more offense.”

This would lead to a shift in on-ice philosophy, as well. Neely has his doubts about Claude Julien’s defense-first system.

A new general manager. Potentially a new coach. How much else will change for the Bruins this summer?