Boston Bruins

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 07: President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins look on during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After the first opening round exit for the Bruins since 2017, it sure felt like the message from ownership was that a change needed to be made, and that it had to either come in the front office or behind the bench.

And as we all know now, with Bruce Cassidy fired last month and Jim Montgomery formally introduced Monday, the Bruins went with the one-two braintrust of team president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney over Cassidy.

And the question thrown ownership’s way in their first press conference since 2019 was a simple one: Why?

“I want to say the Boston Bruins have been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times in the past eleven years under Cam Neely’s tenure. I want to say we have somewhere around a .600-plus win percentage under our general manager’s tenure,” Charlie Jacobs said. “The head coach frankly is the responsibility of the general manager, in our opinion. He has to be accountable for that. Likewise, the president is accountable to the general manager. So, if they come to us and say, ‘Hey listen, we think this might be in the best interest,’ we’re of course going to follow their lead. They’re empowered to make those decisions and it’s not our job to interfere with them but rather to empower them to make those types of decisions and support them.”

It’s a fair point by Jacobs in the sense that these are indeed part of the resumes of his president and general manager. But it also doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to those numbers. Fact is, while the Bruins have been to three Stanley Cup Finals, they don’t get there unless the goalie in net goes on a run with a save percentage of at least .934. Goaltending, not the president’s vision, has been the No. 1 thing what’s carried the Bruins to that level on three separate occasions.

As for Sweeney’s point percentage being used as a reason behind his job security, that’s a tricky one. While the Bruins have indeed posted a .641 point percentage (third-best in the league) since Sweeney took over for Peter Chiarelli in 2015, one coach clearly had a huge hand in that. With Claude Julien behind the bench, Sweeney and the B’s point percentage was .551 (17th in the NHL), and .672 with Cassidy behind the bench (second-best in the league). Picking and choosing who does and doesn’t get to put that on their resume in relation to their job security is a card that was probably better left unplayed.

This was ownership listening to their president and general manager, no questions asked.

“I think that’s the general gist: We went and followed management’s direction,” Charlie Jacobs said. “There are different types of decisions that are involved in the National Hockey League, and Jim Montgomery just spoke to how he plans to lead, how he makes decisions, what is the process. Some are consultative, some are collaborative, and some are unilateral.

“I think by in large, if you were to speak to a majority of management in the National Hockey League, there’s a time where they have to make a decision that might not necessarily be collaborative or consultative. But something that they have to make is in the best interest of the club. It’s our job to support them in that process.”

Nine times out of 10, it’s better for ownership to stay out of things on a micro level. You pay hockey people to make hockey decisions, and that’s almost always for the best. But if and when it’s a ‘you or him’ thing, the full scope is absolutely needed. You could make the case that that’s exactly why the Cassidy decision rubbed so many people the wrong way, as they looked at that situation as one guy doing their job above expectations while the other didn’t. And with the fired guy often having to do what he could to cover up the shortcomings of the guy who got extended.

But it’s not a chain of command that’s changing anytime soon.

“This is Don’s decision and it’s Cam’s responsibility to support Don. I would say it works that way in arguably the other 31 markets in the National Hockey League,” said Charlie Jacobs. “If they want to make a change, we’re here to support them and do so. Until further notice, that’s the way this works.”

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.