Cam Neely spoke last month about the big, bad “identity” of the Boston Bruins, and how getting away from that identity had made them not as “tough to play against as we’d like to be.”
And so it was no surprise when new general manager Don Sweeney, flanked by Neely, spoke today about getting back to that identity, in hopes of returning to the playoffs and competing for a Stanley Cup.
“We’re not as far away as people may think,” Sweeney said. “We have to get back, a little bit, the aggressiveness that was lost in our group.”
Sweeney suggested that the Bruins, having won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and gone to the finals in 2013, had grown “stagnant” or overly “comfortable” with their mix.
Not anymore, he promised.
“There will be some changes going forward,” he said. “There will be personnel changes. There will be staff member changes.”
On that note, Sweeney did not commit to keeping head coach Claude Julien.
“I have some things that I want to sit down with Claude and go through in a very orderly fashion, as to where I think things need to change, and what direction we need to change as a group,” said Sweeney.
“So it’s just about lining up philosophical approaches that I believe in, that he believes in, and that we can move the group forward.”
Sweeney, the longtime Bruins defenseman who’s been in the front office since 2006, was asked about the importance of returning to the “style” that people have come to expect from the organization.
“I think it’s incredibly important,” he said. “It’s one thing to throw the words ‘culture’ and ‘identity’ around, it’s another to live it, breathe it, and teach it.”
Of course, it’s still another thing to assemble the players to be successful with that style.
Or any style, really.
Because the Bruins did not win the Stanley Cup in 2011 by aggression alone. To suggest they did would be to ignore the actual hockey-playing performances they received from the likes of Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nathan Horton, Mark Recchi, and the list goes on.
That team, big and bad as it was, had a lot more than toughness going for it. An elite goalie. An elite defenseman, still in his prime. An elite two-way center. A scoring center. Depth on defense. Four lines that all contributed. Energetic youngsters. Veteran leaders. And on top of all that, the Bruins stayed relatively healthy through 25 hard-fought playoff games.
The 2014-15 roster still had some of those things. But it did not have all of those things.
Conceded Sweeney: “I think it would’ve taken a lot of things to fall our way for us to be in a position to challenge this year.”
So…a lot of things on Sweeney’s plate.
That includes throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight’s Boston Red Sox game.
Welcome to the spotlight.