BUFFALO — The 2016 NHL Draft is nearly three weeks away, and preparations continue to be made for the two-day event in Buffalo on June 24 and 25.
There have been constant viewings of players throughout the season, conversations with coaches and a number of initiatives put into place to try and project the 18-year-olds’ potential.
One more piece to that process involves the 2016 annual NHL Scouting Combine. This year’s event is taking place all week in Buffalo, with 114 draft-eligible prospects interviewing with NHL clubs, and taking part in medical examinations and fitness testing.
The one-on-one interview portion occurs from May 30 - June 3 at the First Niagara Center, with several prospects sitting down with numerous NHL general managers and their staffs. The physical testing will take place on Saturday, June 4 at the HarborCenter across the street from the arena.
Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky provided some insight on the week after wrapping up the third day of interviews on Thursday.
“What we do is we bring in a number of players that we have interest in, just to gauge what they’re like,” said Gretzky. “All of our scouts in the areas have interviewed the kids before, so it gives us a second reading of what they’ve seen.”
“It’s a piece of the puzzle, is what we say,” said Gretzky. “You have the on-ice, you just want to meet them and see what they’re like, see what their growth is going to be, how they see themselves as a hockey player, really, and off-ice. You want good players and good people. This is part of it.”
BostonBruins.com — Unlike the seven other Bruins who were named to World Cup of Hockey rosters in early March, Brad Marchand held out hope for the final roster selection.
That final announcement came on Friday evening, with Marchand joining Patrice Bergeron on Team Canada’s squad for the much anticipated World Cup of Hockey 2016, taking place from Sept. 17 - Oct.1 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Eight teams will compete in the two-week tournament with 23-man rosters comprised of 173 NHL players in total.
In addition to Marchand and Bergeron, six other Bruins are on World Cup of Hockey rosters, including Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on Team Europe, Loui Eriksson on Team Sweden, David Krejci and David Pastrnak on Team Czech Republic, and Tuukka Rask on Team Finland.
“It’s an incredible honor to play for Team Canada,” Marchand said on a conference call with media Friday evening. “It’s something that I think we all take a lot of pride in, and something that is — it’s not an easy accomplishment.”
BostonBruins.com — The Bruins will explore the marketplace in every way, shape and form this offseason.
General Manager Don Sweeney stressed that on a conference call with media Wednesday morning.
“I’ll explore whatever I have to do, in every way, shape, or form to continue to improve the club and find the blend and the balance that we need,” said Sweeney.
Improving the nature of the defense is a priority.
“We talked about it as a group — improving our defense is No. 1,” President Cam Neely said at the end of the 2015-16 season.
“We have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization, likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again, on the back end,” Sweeney said on the conference call, when asked by a reporter about the areas where they are looking to improve.
“We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”
BostonBruins.com — On Wednesday, Head Coach Claude Julien and General Manager Don Sweeney were both available to media on a conference call to discuss recent news, including former Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and Director of Player Development Jay Pandolfo being named assistant coaches.
“We are excited about the impact that Bruce Cassidy, Jay Pandolfo, along with Joe Sacco, will have on our team and Claude’s staff moving forward,” said Sweeney.
“This restructure of the staff really was a collaborate effort to provide Claude with a group that will reinforce how he wants his team to play and we’ll also work to get all of our players, vets, young players, new players to the organization to perform to their highest level.”
“I want to first of all thank Doug Jarvis and also Doug Houda for their contribution to this team for the time that they’ve been with me,” Julien said on the call. “Obviously both those guys were part of a Stanley Cup run, they were also part of our Stanley Cup win in 2011.”
BostonBruins.com — Like the rest of the Bruins, Kevan Miller was frustrated following the 2015-16 season.
He’ll get a chance to help the Black & Gold bounce back in 2016-17.
On Tuesday afternoon, the defenseman was signed to a four-year contract extension through the 2019-20 season.
“Obviously it’s a very exciting day for me and my family,” said Miller. “It’s a huge opportunity — I’m very blessed for that, and I obviously want to say thank you to the Jacobs family, Cam Neely and Don Sweeney. It’s a tremendous opportunity and I’m really happy to be in Boston.”
Miller is entering his fourth season in Boston. In 2015-16, he competed in a career-high 71 games and established career highs in goals (five), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He posted the second-best plus/minus rating on the team at plus-15 and dropped the gloves on three occasions.
“I’d like to also say thank you to my family, my friends — they’ve all helped me get to this point,” Miller said. “Boston is a great city to play in and we have the best fans in the NHL, so I’m very thankful to them as well. I love playing here; it’s an honor to put that jersey on before every game.”
BOSTON — For the fifth straight season, Patrice Bergeron has been named a Selke Finalist.
It would have been more of a shock if he was not nominated.
The Bruins alternate captain has made himself synonymous with the award given to the league’s top defensive forward, winning it the past two seasons in 2014 and 2015, as well as in 2012. He finished second in the balloting in 2013.
The three finalists for June’s NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas were announced by the NHL on Thursday night. Bergeron joins Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and the LA Kings’ Anze Kopitar, who has been a fellow finalist the past two seasons.
“Being named a finalist for the Selke Trophy is a tremendous honor and one I am very grateful for,” Bergeron said in a team press release. “While it is an individual award, my teammates and coaches deserve a lot of credit as well.”
“Ryan and Anze are two elite players who both had great seasons and it is a privilege to be a finalist alongside them. Thanks to all of those who voted and I look forward to the NHL Awards Show on June 22.”
BOSTON — A week and a half has passed since the Bruins’ end to the season, and the disappointment has certainly not gone away.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs and Cam Neely joined together at TD Garden for their annual season-end press conference to cap off the 2015-16 season and meet with reporters. They expressed the same sentiment that Don Sweeney, Claude Julien and the players previously voiced.
“I hate to lose more than I love to win,” said Neely. “I don’t like missing the playoffs. I want everybody else to feel the same way.”
“We know where our better players are in their careers, we have an idea of how many more good years they have left at the top of their game. It’s very important for us to put pieces around them to compete again for a Cup. That has to happen sooner rather than later.”
Heading into the 2015-16 season, Sweeney laid out a plan to get the Bruins back on that path.
“That plan included giving us some cap flexibility, stockpiling prospects and putting a playoff team on the ice,” said Neely. “And quite frankly, with 86 points and 13 games to go, we should’ve been a playoff team — we should be playing right now.”
BOSTON — The refrain starts to sound similar from year to year.
“Amazing.” “Once in a lifetime.” “Words can’t describe.” Tears start to well up.
The Boston Marathon — and its 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton, Mass. into Boston — is one of a kind.
Each April, a group of about 30 runners band together to represent the Boston Bruins Foundation on the marathon route, proudly wearing the Spoked-B.
Some runners lace them up year after year. Others, like Shannon Crane, a Premium Client Service Rep at TD Garden, are first-timers.
The experience is nearly always the same, complete with awe-filled moments, that leave them with the same response.
“That was definitely a once in lifetime thing,” Crane burst out after crossing the famed finish line on Boylston Street in Boston and making her way through the crowd of thousands to find her family members.
BOSTON — The 2015-16 season clearly did not end how the Bruins would have liked.
That goes for everyone involved — the organization, general manager, head coach, players and fans. As such, the annual process has begun for both looking back at the disappointing end and dissecting the season, and then looking ahead to the future and what will need to be improved.
It’s the nature of the business, when the final result is not the ultimate prize.
On Thursday morning, General Manager Don Sweeney and Head Coach Claude Julien held their season-end press conference at TD Garden to field questions from reporters about the season.
“It’s a performance business, and this town’s been pretty successful in accumulating championships, and we expect to be doing the same thing,” said Sweeney, when asked about the criticism that comes along with the position that they’re in. “That’s the set of standards that we know going in. That’s what drives you, the passionate fanbase here.”
“You understand the criticism’s coming. The only real way to alleviate that is to get back on top, and you’re going to be subject to it until you do.”
“There’s just no easy battle,” said Sweeney. “You’ve got to choose the path that’s in front of you and if it’s bumpy, then you work through the bumps.”
The major bump for the 2015-16 Bruins was missing the postseason for the second straight year, with a playoff spot hanging on Game 82. One more regulation win, or one more point, would have made the difference for the Black & Gold.
As Zdeno Chara said during his season-end media availability on Monday, the team “is close, but close it not close enough.”
“I mean, we’ve seen the last two years, we missed the playoffs by a point, two points — we’re there, but obviously the commitment has got to be on a higher level,” Chara said. “The execution has to be on a higher level, and every individual has to be better in that area.”
The work continues for Sweeney and his staff, for Julien and his staff, for the players who will rest, recover and gear up for another season.
“October’s a long way away; we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Sweeney. “I understand it’s still on me to get this group back to acquiring and assembling players that can help our current group, and in support of what Claude believes in and his philosophies as a coach.”
Voicing confidence in Julien was one of Sweeney’s first orders of business during the press conference, as the first question asked by a reporter involved Julien’s status.
“I emphatically believe that Claude is the coach that can take us through what I’ll describe as what has been a bumpy transition period this year,” said Sweeney. “We’ve got work to do; I have work to do. There’s no question that. We have areas that we want to address and collectively we’ve already started to assess that. We did throughout the course of the year, we’ve tried to address some of those things, and we’ll continue to address them.”
Sweeney and Julien met for an extended period of time on Sunday morning to begin the assessment process. Monday saw the players go through exit physicals and speak with reporters. Tuesday served as a day of exit meetings with players. Julien and Sweeney spent Wednesday going back over everything, and Thursday served as the day to meet with the local media.
In capping the 2015-16 season, the Bruins ended the year fifth in scoring, as one of two teams with three 30-goal scorers in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson. On the flip side, they fell to 20th in goals against.
“You try to improve in all areas of your hockey club,” said Sweeney. “We had players that had been in our system and have done very well in our system. We had some injuries [on defense] early on, allowing that opportunity for some younger players that had been in our group who are going to continue to hopefully grow and be able to mature as NHL players.”
“You’re going to find that in almost every team. That eventually, you know, a player gets an opportunity and it’s up to him to continue to take advantage of that opportunity and sometimes it happens and you end up with a long career and sometimes it doesn’t, and then it’s incumbent upon me to make sure that I’m in a position where we have depth when we go through rough patches, or you go out and acquire players that can help you.”
“We have gaps in that area,” Sweeney continued. “We’re not a team that’s playing for the Stanley Cup. We clearly have areas that we need to improve upon.”
With Julien behind the bench for 2016-17, the structure will be in place.
“Eventually it falls on the players themselves to execute, because he has won and the players that he’s had have won,” said Sweeney. “Therefore, the players that we continue to identify have to come in and complement that.”
“At times, our group wasn't as galvanized defensively,” said Sweeney. “And again, there’s new player integration, there’s younger players — those are all areas that we need to address going forward. We started right in our exit interviews to address it with some of them to get them to understand, and there’s got to be a total buy-in.”
“Clearly the best players, when they have the types of years that they have — Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and March [Brad Marchand] in particular, they lead that charge and the other players have to fall in line with that.”
Apart from the structure of the Bruins’ game, Julien and Sweeney also addressed a theme that came up during the players’ season-end availability: inconsistency.
“I think it’s pretty obvious, that we failed on numerous occasions there when there were some big games,” said Julien. “We can go back to even the Winter Classic, you know, how we played in that game… there were some games that we failed to get what we needed.”
“And there were other games and right now it’s more, ‘how did we play so well against Detroit, and not be able to win that game against Ottawa?’ That’s where we failed, you know. Somehow, the consistency wasn’t there.”
“We thought we had a decent amount of consistency at one point, but then it slipped, and throughout the year, we lost some games that I really felt were important for us to win and we weren’t able to do that. So at the end of the day, you end up missing the playoffs by a real small margin and that’s where I think we failed, honestly.”
Before the Bruins’ five-game losing streak in mid-March, they had not lost more than three in a row all season. Three times, they lost three straight games — in October start the season, in early November, and then in late December.
The most difficult aspect of the season to assess is not necessarily their attack, or their defensive prowess, but the inability down the stretch to will themselves to important wins, even if they came close to getting the job done.
“Can we have a little more players that will galvanize when the heat comes in? Yes, no question about it,” said Sweeney. “And whether or not the younger players that we currently have will develop that is to be determined, and a lot of times you do have to experience it. It’s not fun when you do make that type of mistake and you have to grow from it and you feel like the pressure is on you. But hey, that's the business. You signed up for it and if you can’t do it, then it’s my job to make sure we find players that, and we grow players in that regard, that are capable of doing that.”
“Because that’s what it takes to win. Ultimately, that’s what it takes to win, and that’s what our fans expect; that’s what they identify with, so we need to make damn sure that we act accordingly going forward.”
“We have players that have significantly invested in this organization long-term and had a lot of success,” said Sweeney. “They have been emphatic that they’d like to climb the mountain again and that’s a good testament.”
“Sometimes when you get there, you’ve climbed it once and you don’t want to go back. Other people are like, ‘sign me up,’ and that’s what we need more of. We need more players that when they get to the line, that they know how hard the climb is, they’ve experienced it… and we have a good group of core guys that have done that. And the rest of the guys need to either jump on board and become and grow and want to do that, or they won’t be here.”
“From an organizational standpoint, that’s what I stand for. That’s part of the reason why I was hired. I’m driven that way. I want players that are internally driven. You can be externally motivated; believe me, there are a lot of good things about this game that can motivate you. But, boy oh boy, you better be internally driven in order to have success in this league.”
From the front office, down to the players and the organization, that drive is what will need to propel the Bruins forward.
“I’m not any less driven in terms of finding the fixes, excited about knowing we have a coach that can lead us through what I still consider a transition period, and being very, very excited about what lies in front of us,” said Sweeney. “With the players we have and the core of our group, and how driven they are.”
BOSTON — General Manager Don Sweeney and Head Coach Claude Julien held their annual season-end press conference on Thursday morning at TD Garden.
The first question fielded by Sweeney from a reporter was if Julien would be returning as head coach.
Sweeney's response? “Absolutely.”
“I emphatically believe that Claude is the coach that can take us through what I’ll describe as what has been a bumpy transition period this year,” said Sweeney. “And we’ve got work to do. I have work to do.”
“There’s no question that we have areas that we want to address and collectively, we’ve already started to assess that. We did throughout the course of the year, we’ve tried to address some of those things, and we’ll continue to address them.”
Julien will be returning for his 10th season behind the Bruins bench in 2016-17.
“I believe in Claude as a coach,” said Sweeney. “I think our core principles align very well from the defensive structure of the team, as well as what we see in individual players.”