Whether you liked what you heard yesterday on 98.5 The Sports Hubs’ own Felger & Mazz show or not it sure felt good to hear something, anything, from Bruins President, Cam Neely. It’s no joke when I say it was a weird feeling to actually hear him talk in a candid setting again and answer real questions about his club. It was refreshing. And to top it off, shortly after Cam voiced his thoughts the Bruins went out and got a nice win over the San Jose Sharks at the Garden.
So I don’t bore you death with every little detail I’ll just hammer out some of the key takeaways from Neely’s radio appearance:
- As far as the timing of firing Claude Julien, Neely said “we knew we were going to get pounded for doing it on that day.”
- Neely did acknowledge he has final say (“veto power”, as Felger put it) on Sweeney’s decisions. Thus, he agreed on firing Claude, and his power is why we want to hear from him more.
- The coaching change was largely due to improving the pace of play, and style the Bruins play offensively. Extending Claude’s contract after next year wasn’t in the plan so they cut him loose now.
- Sweeney and Julien did disagree at times over how the young guys should be used (Sweeney’s natural strength is in development).
- The Bruins home record troubles Neely deeply.
- Neely continually distanced himself from Sweeney (i.e: “Sweeney’s plan”, “Don laid out his plan”)
- Neely rightfully, and respectfully, called out David Krejci and David Backes for their subpar performances. Interestingly, it almost sounded like he’d trade them in a heartbeat if he could.
- Felger called out Neely and Sweeney for ducking interviews and keeping a fan base in the dark. Every professional Boston team does them regularly. The Bruins do them once a season it seems. Neely admitted they are “painful” for him.
My reaction: I loved it. I thought Felger and Mazz were both very direct and aggressive, but also very respectful of Cam. It was a controlled burn. And I thought Cam was very good at holding his ground despite sounding dodgy, uncertain, and nervous at times. Even if you didn’t like his answers Neely took it well. But it also had plenty of moments where you really weren’t believing everything Neely said. But I didn’t expect to either.
The real admissions I liked hearing was that Neely knows the roster is flawed. He also knows, and is discouraged to see, the star players are underperforming. David Backes must have heard Cam’s justified comments about his unsatisfactory play because Backes came out and scored 52 seconds into the game just mere hours after the interview. And I liked Neely’s comments on what Cassidy can bring to the table for a team that appeared at the end of their rope.
The troubling part of his interview is the vision and direction the team is headed in still isn’t well articulated or known. It still feels like it’s sold as the same ol’ flawed “win now rebuild” but I get the feeling that behind closed doors they’re really thinking sell. But we just don’t know. Some of that is due to the Bruins being (mathematically) in the playoff mix. Some of that is due to management seeming to not have a clear vision themselves.
Cam is the face of this organization, from his #8 in the rafters to his tailored suits today. To hear him say these interviews are “painful”, and that not attending pressers for firing their legendary coach isn’t a big deal when he has final say, is upsetting. Like Sweeney, he just doesn’t sound confident making a decision on tough questions or confronting issues.
How can interviews, asking and answering simple questions for radio, be painful and laborious when Cam’s job is to make far more difficult decisions about organizational questions that involve big money and real consequences? That’s what worried me about the interview.
It felt like managements decision making approach is that of a person who’s in a relationship that knows it’s dead but won’t get out, or get help, or maybe work on it, or anything. They’ll just stay pat and let it sink because a decision to act is something they’re not comfortable doing.
I could be wrong because I really do think Neely handled himself pretty well for a situation he hates being in. He hit back at times yet both sides were fair to each other.
After listening to the interview I’m worried that Bruins management are taking too long to make difficult decisions regarding their direction, when they probably know the right answers. And between now and July 1st is clearly the last and only window for this organization to shape and decide what they really are.