Boston Bruins

  • BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney speaks to the media during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

    BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 25: Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney speaks to the media during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

    Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has mastered the art of saying a lot while simultaneously saying pretty much nothing at all. He certainly had a high volume of words at his most recent press conference. Just not much in the way of substance.

    Obviously, Sweeney doesn’t owe anyone information or quotable lines. His job is to run the Boston Bruins’ front office, and the reporters’ jobs are to ask him whatever’s on their mind. The reason Sweeney rubs some media folks the wrong way is his attitude at these pressers, particularly when his feet are held ever so slightly to the fire.

    He gets unnecessarily snippy. He pretends to have “answered” a question after moonwalking around it. He acts as if it’s some affront to his accomplishments and legacy when you ask him a tough question about his mistakes, or failures of the team.

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  • And yet, Sweeney’s accomplishments as Bruins GM include zero Stanley Cup championships, and only one year in which the team made it out of the second round of the playoffs. His legacy? A string of bad drafts that have left the team clinging desperately to an aging veteran core, seemingly depending more and more on players who are only getting older and older.

    Sweeney hasn’t been a bad GM. He’s made some good trades. The Bruins drafted Charlie McAvoy and Jeremy Swayman on his watch. Boston can at least say it’s enjoyed an annual playoff run since 2017 under Sweeney’s leadership. But the honest truth is, the Bruins have only remained a playoff team because of players who were drafted and developed before Sweeney reached the highest level of the front office. How much credit can Sweeney take for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask?

  • Forgive me if I’m coming off a little dramatic, here. But Sweeney’s press conferences are endlessly frustrating. We’re now looking at a team that fired one of the most successful head coaches in league history (based on regular season winning percentage, anyway). A team that is leaning on 37-year-old Patrice Bergeron and 36-year-old David Krejci to power a roster bereft of impactful young talent, especially at the all-important center position.

    Are reporters supposed to be nice?

    And even saying all that, they pretty much were nice. Which is fine. Ask whatever you want. But Sweeney can’t help but carry this air of unearned arrogance. Bill Belichick is accused of this kind of behavior all the time, but he’s earned the right. Sweeney is still looking for his first championship as GM, let alone his sixth.

    Anyway, might as well take a look at what Sweeney said Wednesday. It wasn’t all completely useless.

  • On the timeline of the Bergeron and Krejci deals…

    “David expanded a little bit and Patrice as well. Obviously, we’ve been talking for a while, you know, just conceptually and once Patrice indicated that he was likely coming back, his recruiting of David and the conversations that we had privately started. I have been in touch with David all through last year, as you guys know, and mostly with Jiri as well, just because allowing David to stay in his in his own headspace of what he had intended, why he had left in the first place, I think he was pretty forthright in that it was all about his family and the opportunity to play in his hometown.

    And everything that represented it held true. But we had had extensive talks over the period of time about if he was going to come back, the door would be open. And we always felt that way, last year and this year. And knowing some of the cap challenges and some of the things that we were facing, both players were really good and honest about, hey, you know, you’re going to try to improve the team and we want to be part of it and then almost working backwards from there.

    So that’s why the contractual stuff took an awful lot of time to just sort of figure out what we were going to be capable of doing and how we could fit them together. And I’m appreciative of Phillippe Lecavalier and Jiri and David and Patrice to allow us flexibility and eventually get it done and be very, very excited to have them both back.”

    Translation: “We talked.”

  • Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) and center Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrate the 2-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes following game five of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) and center Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrate the 2-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes following game five of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    On the futures of Bergeron and Krejci beyond this season…

    “That’s going to be Patrice’s decision ultimately. And I’ve said that all along, he dictates the time on how long do I play hockey. He can play for, you know, for as long as he really wants to, to tell you the truth. In my opinion, from his impact in the game, he was pretty adamant that he’s going to take things year by year and reevaluate.

    And David Krejci, you know, last year was a difficult one, you’re losing a really, really good player, an important player for your team. We did a decent job of bringing in some players that we felt would complement our group, but didn’t accomplish what we wanted to. And then you have the opportunity to bring David back just because you know the player he is. I don’t think there’s any timeline about how long those guys want to play.

    I think they left it open ended. They are very much living in the moment and recognizing they’ve seen several of their teammates previously move on, retire. So, I think they’re honest about where they are, but they’re awfully really good players. So, I think that’s it and they’re driven to succeed and excited about playing with the group that we currently have.

    We have subsequent plans in place as an organization. We have to, not unlike when, you know, when we got the news with David Krejci last year and having to pivot and make other decisions as a result of that and maybe there’s a pivot point as I’ve referenced — you’re not going to replace Patrice. That’s just not just doesn’t happen. You have to grow the next player and hope that you know you know Jed Clampett and striking oil somewhere, right? In all honesty, some people might not even know that reference in this room. You got it. But that’s the bottom line.

    You know, you try and prepare as best you can for it, but ultimately you just have to move on and go to plan B. And we have an awful lot of good players in place. We may have a younger tilt if that’s the case, and that’ll be by design if we ultimately want to go in that direction. But you know, we’re a really competitive team. We want to improve our team this year.

    I think we have to get healthy. You have to stay healthy and then you try and take a run. But we’re going to be fine from the standpoint of the number of really good players we currently have and the age band that they’re in, it’s the next wave that you have to grow and cross your fingers that you’ve hit on.”

    Translation: “I don’t know.” (This is where Sweeney could take a page out of Belichick’s book.)

  • On the Bruins’ litany of injuries…

    “Everybody’s doing well in their timelines. Again, we’ve always put a band on things to prepare for whether or not a guy is doing better than expected or not necessarily. And right now, as indicated, I think the guys are following the trajectory that was laid out and hopefully we don’t have any surprises every now and then.”

    Translation: “Guys are hurt. They’ll be back.”

    RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 14: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins reacts following their 2-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 14, 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

    RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 14: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins reacts following their 2-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 14, 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

  • On extension talks with David Pastrnak…

    “Ongoing would probably be the best way to describe it. We’ve been in regular communication. Obviously, David’s still over in Europe and likelihood is he’ll come back and we’ll talk between now and then. When he gets back, we’ll maybe have a better idea of a deal timeline. But I don’t have one today and you guys know me well enough, I’m not going to comment publicly on ongoing negotiations, but we’ve been in regular contact with JP.”

    Translation: “We’re talking.” (To be fair, this is newsworthy. At least we know they’re still talking contract.)

  • On whether he can risk going into the season without Pastrnak signed long-term…

    “Yeah, I mean, it’s part of the business. You know, leverage is out there and the conversations are ongoing. We’ve made our intentions known all along and we’ll continue to do that, and we’ll go from there. But you know, as far as entering the season with it, not a problem.”

    Translation: “Yes.”

  • On agreeing to a deal with Pavel Zacha…

    “Evan Gold and Paul Capizzano and Peter MacTavish – they did a lot of work with Pavel’s contract in a short period of time. Certainly, explored longer term deals. And I think as an organization, we’ve done a pretty good job of targeting players that we’ve acquired and then being able to extend, whether that’s right away or down the road.

    Pavel’s a guy that we’ve indicated that we’d like to continue to talk and we can’t do that until later on in the year. But we will hopefully find a common ground there. I think that getting a player in, getting acclimated and feeling good about his situation, both where he’s going to play, which may be different at the start of the year as the middle of the year and certainly going forward, him having a clear indication of that from us as organization, from the coaching staff.

    I think Pavel was comfortable, you know, really putting himself in a position where he could parlay this and we’re comfortable as well. I think we’ve had enough talks that we understand where the marketplace is and maybe where he might fit in there. And hopefully we can find common ground moving forward. We’d like to have him here long term.”

    Translation: “We signed him.” (But you can count the idea that they want to keep Zacha long-term as something newsworthy.)

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 28: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center on January 28, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 28: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center on January 28, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • On doing the math to figure out their salary cap maneuvering…

    “I hope we’ve done significant math to be able to put the pieces together. We have some challenges, as do several teams and how we do that through trade or be it through waivers that really all teams are going to have to face. We don’t have an issue certainly through November. We don’t have an issue because of LTI and the likelihood that will be an LTI with the injuries we have, the amount of injuries we have. But coming out of it is the math challenge.

    And yeah, we’ll have to unwind a little bit. But we have some mechanisms to be able to do that. We know what the leverage will be and, you know, you just don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then anyways. So, we’re prepared to go in a couple different directions to explore what we have to, but we have mechanisms in place to be able to accomplish the goal.”

    Translation: “I think so.”

  • On potentially having to move players off the roster…

    “Yeah, that’s one that I think all the vast majority of teams that are chasing what we are going to face that and have some challenges. Injuries aside and how you manage it as an organization, it’s asset management to a large degree – as I referenced earlier you got waiver decisions. So, I think it’s pretty well known around the league now and guys know that there could be a, you know, a tightening at some point in time, and the players are involved in that.”

    Translation: “We’re gonna have to do some stuff.”

  • That’s pretty much it. The Pastrnak and Zacha details were worth the time. But Sweeney could save himself a lot of time if he just tightened up these answers. For now, we’ll just continue to run it through the translator.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.