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Cam Neely and Charlie Jacobs weren’t there to get into specifics.
The Boston Bruins President and team CEO didn’t quite reveal the reasons why general manager Peter Chiarelli was fired on Wednesday, only to say that it came after an annual audit of the organization and the result of wanting to improve the team going forward.
The Bruins last missed the playoffs in 2007, which cost then-head coach Dave Lewis his job. That’s when Chiarelli hired head coach Claude Julien. Eight years later, Chiarelli is out and Julien’s future will be decided on by the next GM.
In January, Jacobs called the idea of the Bruins missing the playoffs “unacceptable” and what would amount to “a failure.” One reason why that came to fruition, according to Neely, was he believed the Bruins got away from their “identity."
Despite the early start to their off-season, Neely doesn’t believe a total overhaul of the roster is needed.
“I don’t think we’re looking at a large or a complete rebuild,” Neely said. “We’ve still got a good core group of players that have great character. To a man, most of them admitted that they had an off-year this year, and we think that that group is still good enough to help us compete for championships. The difficult thing is where we are up against the cap. That’s going to be something we have to manage.”
But the process of relieving some of that cap pressure won’t begin until a new GM is installed. Only then will some hard decisions need to be made. Despite Neely’s love of his (aging) core, they failed this season and don’t appear to show signs of improving together going forward.
And with championships come raises for players, which the Bruins handed out after their Stanley Cup win in 2011. That meant relying more on “entry-level players,” as Neely put it. But those (productive) younger players have thinned in numbers, which is why three scouts were also canned on Wednesday, including Chiarelli’s brother, Mike.
Since 2011, six of Boston’s 23 draft picks have played one game in the NHL, most notably Dougie Hamilton and David Pastrnak. Contrast that with Chiarelli’s first five drafts, which has seen 16 players reach the NHL, including the 2006 draft which brought Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand.
“It’s expensive to always get ready-made players,” Neely said. “It’s a nice luxury to be able to have, but when you don’t have the cap space to be able to do that you’ve got to find entry-level players.”
Poor drafting wasn’t a sole reason, just a part of the picture as to why Chiarelli, who has three years left on his contract, is no longer Bruins GM. Poor cap management played a big role in it as well.
For the time being, the hockey operations department led by assistant GMs Don Sweeney and Scott Bradley, along with executive director of player personnel John Ferguson, Jr. will run the show. As Neely and Jacobs begin their search for Chiarelli’s replacement, they're not married to the idea of hiring from within.
“It’s really about what we feel is going to be best for the organization,” Neely said.
Added Jacobs, “It’s about finding the best candidate. Period.”
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