Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

  • If you’re sick of hearing about Mitchell Miller, buddy, join the effin’ club.

    A Bruin for not even a full weekend (Mitchell’s tenure with the organization makes Martin Jones look worthy of a number retirement ceremony), this signing went about the way everybody outside of the Bruins’ hockey ops thought it would. Miller, even two years removed from the Coyotes renouncing his rights after his horrific past came out of draft room conversations and into the mainstream, is about as radioactive as anybody not named Kanye or Kyrie could be.

    The Bruins found that out the hard way when they decided to dip their hand into the steel drum labeled “RADIOACTIVE WASTE, DON’T TOUCH,’ and there was no amount of publicly-displayed self-doubt from Don Sweeney that made fans (or players) in Boston comfortable stomaching bringing that into the organization.

    But it’s a story that continues to develop, and each development has been worse than the one that came before.

    And it’s beginning to look an awful lot like a story that’s going to have to end with some sort of major fallout in Boston.

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  • Speaking with reporters Monday morning, Cam Neely looked like a man who had not slept since Miller signed his contract with the team.

    The only smile Neely cracked over the course of a 16-minute meeting with the press came when a reporter made a reference to ‘bad trades’ within a question. The smile was wiped away almost immediately when the question ended and Neely was forced to admit that this was indeed the worst move the team has made during his time in the front office.

    With misery on his face, a contrite Neely offered what he could.

    Of course, there were some things that couldn’t be discussed. Namely his feelings on Eustace King, the agent for Miller, and whether or not he felt that King misrepresented the facts of Miller’s sordid past. King’s statement published on Sunday and his subsequent comments on the Cam & Strick podcast have been met with conflicting commentary from parties he’s mentioned, including Isaiah Meyer-Crothers himself, throughout this process. Neely seemingly offered an answer within a non-answer, however, as he told me, “I can’t get into that right now, unfortunately,” when I asked him about any potential misrepresentation from King. That ‘unfortunately’ means something, if you ask me.

    Neely also couldn’t offer an explanation as to why the Bruins did not talk to the Meyers-Crothers family.

    That’s something that Neely acknowledged as requiring answers, and Neely didn’t downplay the severity of the organization not doing their due diligence with something as gigantic as bringing Miller into the fold.

    “I’m disappointed that we’re in this position,” Neely admitted. “We shouldn’t be in this position.

    “We could’ve done a better job [and] we should’ve done a better job.”

    The team president for the last 12 and a half years, Neely did not rule out punishments or penalties for hockey ops.

    “Something I have to deal with [Monday] and this week and see where it takes me,” Neely said. “I’ve got more work to do.”

    Now, where the work was not done is the question that could very well cost the Bruins millions of dollars in addition to their obvious public image hit, and it’s precisely where any additional fallout will surely come.

  • 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)

    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. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • Now, the idea of the Bruins’ front office being out of sync to this degree is another embarrassing twist to this entirely and publicly embarrassing saga. But it’s something that’s looking more and more like a brutal reality for the franchise.

    Asking around the league this week (because the Bruins’ figureheads aren’t going to give anything out in general, let alone during something like this), I couldn’t help but wonder how something like this would transpire.

    “This is on the general manager,” one source told 98.5 The Sports Hub. “[Neely] trusts that people will do their job.”

    This seemed to be a common theme among people talking. The role of a team president is to sign off and make ownership aware, but not to do his own deep dives. There’s people who are paid to do that, and that comes from below, and long before Neely is in the same room as Miller.

    Some believed that Sweeney was blinded by both the talent and the agent representing Miller. It’s worth noting that King told teams that he would do research for them and save them the hassle. Is that something that worked on Sweeney? And if so, how bad does that look? “How can you not do your own homework?” one source asked. “He fell for the agent’s bullshit.”

    Others weren’t as convinced.

    “I have a hard time thinking Sweeney wanted [Miller] that badly,” another source said. “He’s been so protective of the ‘character’ in that locker room. It’s hard to imagine him abandoning that. Who else was in his ear?”

    Internally, there were multiple people — and in multiple departments — who did not want Miller and his brand of particularly vile bullshit to join the club. Even after an otherworldly season as an overager in the USHL.

    The on-ice product made a stand as best they could. Patrice Bergeron, Nick Foligno, and Brad Marchand were all vocal with their disapproval. Bergeron outright said it didn’t fit in with the values of the team, and that they were not about to compromise those values for anybody. Foligno called the addition of Miller “hard to swallow.” Marchand even acknowledged the would-be addition of Miller as a potential bridge too far for the leadership group and described it as “definitely a burden,” even if the front office may have thought that they could be the kind of room to ‘fix’ Miller.

    This, after the team expressed their disapproval to Sweeney before he officially signed Miller, felt like as close to a rebellion as you’d see. Complete with an either cunningly intentional or painfully ironic playing of “Karma Police” by Radiohead following the team’s morning skate Monday, with a chorus that sings, “This is what you get when you mess with us.”

    The good news in a story full of bad news? The on-ice distraction component of this is over.

    Speaking prior to Monday’s win over the Blues, Bergeron acknowledged the distraction that the Miller signing became for the team, even if was just for a few days and one game in Toronto (a loss, by the way). Bergeron also noted that the team feels like they can refocus, and was especially happy — a relative term, of course — that the Bruins agreed to cut ties with Miller, saying that the team was universally against the signing, and that it was good that they were heard in that respect.

    Anybody sticking a microphone in Bergeron’s face and asking about Mitchell Miller moving forward is just a dick.

  • VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: (L-R) Don Sweeney and Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: (L-R) Don Sweeney and Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • But the bad news is that for the front office, the trouble is just beginning.

    The Bruins still don’t know what they’re going to do with Miller.

    The Bruins would obviously like to terminate his contract. But unless there’s a breach of his contract for a character or moral clause, that can’t happen unless both sides agree to it. In the eyes of Miller’s camp, the infractions that would invoke those clauses occurred six years ago, and there’s no reason for them to walk away from almost $3 million in salary for the next three years, especially with the rest of the NHL absolutely unwilling to repeat the mistake the Bruins made. So, no, they’re not agreeing to a damn thing.

    It’s instead looking like the sides are going to move towards a grievance or a buyout that will require the Bruins to pay out a player who was with their organization for a mere 56 hours. Miller is also occupying a spot on the team’s 50-contract limit, which only adds a wrinkle to any potential deadline plans.

    Beyond the financial fallout of Miller’s weekend as a Bruin, Neely put himself on the clock when he said that he needed the week to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the organization’s botched vetting process of Miller’s past. We’re rapidly approaching the halfway point of that timeline, and the fact that this story continues to get worse by the day leaves ‘do nothing and let it blow over’ as an increasingly slim and perhaps disastrous idea.

    Multiple sources speaking to 98.5 The Sports Hub had their own doubts that Neely would do something as drastic as firing Sweeney, especially with Sweeney signed to an extension this past summer. It’s also the first time Sweeney and the Bruins have ‘stepped in it’ with a bad character signing. But almost everybody noted that this is something that would absolutely file under a termination-worthy mistake for most organizations.

    “This story is almost too big to just trust that it’ll all blow over,” one source mused.

    And it doesn’t like that’s going to happen.

    On the ground, there’s been some rumblings that a national news program is “sniffing around the situation.” A website specializing in freelance work has the program looking for help in both Boston and Toledo. Toledo is about a 20-minute drive from Sylvania, Ohio, where the incidents between Meyer-Crothers and Miller took place. Unless there’s another Boston-Toledo connection currently in the news, an intro that greets you late in the fourth quarter of every NFL Sunday has its sights set on the Bruins.

    And with that comes the concern that there’s yet another layer to this stinky onion full of increasingly horrible updates because, well, this story has been full of them from the jump.

    What a completely and absolutely avoidable mess.

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