Those hoping for a front office change with the Bruins were delivered some bad news Thursday, as Bruins president Cam Neely has made it clear that the plan is for general manager Don Sweeney to sign a new contract with the team.
“I started talking with Charlie [Jacobs] and Mr. Jacobs after the deadline about extending Don, and my plan is to do that,” Neely, who has the blessing from ownership to extend Sweeney, said. “I’m gonna sit down with Don in the next day or two and hopefully hammer something out.”
Neely’s update comes a day after Sweeney confirmed that he did not have a contract in place for 2022-23. It was an unusual spot to be in, all things considered, but it wasn’t one that derailed Sweeney, according to Neely.
“We actually talked about it. He said, ‘I have no problem going into my last year as GM. I’ll continue to work the way I work, I’ll work as hard as I can to improve the club,'” Neely revealed. “He was very professional in that regard.”
But it’s worth asking, why the hold-up in committing to Sweeney?
“To be honest, I really wanted to see how the year went,” Neely said of the decision not to hammer out an extension during the season. “We had a lot of changes over the last offseason, so I just really wanted to see how that played out. Obviously, January, February, and March were really good months for us. Team really came together, and I thought we had a lot of depth. And I was happy with what he did at the deadline.”
Perhaps most notably when it came to their faith in Sweeney even as a ‘lame duck’ general manager, Neely confirmed that the Bruins did not put any restrictions on Sweeney’s ability to trade at the deadline. (This is something they did to Peter Chiarelli at the 2015 trade deadline before firing him two months later.)
“It was whatever we needed to do to give ourselves the best chance to win this year,” Neely said of his directive to Sweeney at the deadline.
And Sweeney’s big move at the deadline was more than a rental, as he went out and acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Ducks. Sweeney and the Bruins immediately inked Lindholm to a monster extension, and addressed what was a long-term issue for the club following the decision to move on from Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug in 2020.
It may very well be the move that saved Sweeney’s job with the Bruins.
The Bruins have a .641 point percentage since making the switch from Chiarelli to Sweeney in 2015, which ranks third in the league, trailing only the Capitals and Lightning. But the Bruins are not a team that anybody views as a finished product, with Neely noting that the team needs to get better at getting to the inside area of the ice, and that the coaching staff needs to make some tweaks to be a more viable threat come the postseason.
“You’re always analyzing and dissecting your club, throughout the whole year really. But the playoffs certainly gave me some indication that we’ve got to do a little better job of getting inside the dots,” said Neely. “Maybe not try to have such a rush mentality. I thought we were getting a little stubborn at times, turning pucks over the blue line, whether it was an entry on the power play or 5-on-5. I think at times, you’ve got to take what’s given to you and sometimes you’ve got to dump it in and go get it and grind it out.”