Bruins president Cam Neely joined Felger and Mazz for his weekly chat on Thursday, and after fielding a couple of questions about Brad Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg and the potential for the team making a deal to add a defenseman, the discussion turned to whether Neely expects Loui Eriksson to take back his spot on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Reilly Smith has shined for the Bruins after taking Eriksson’s spot following the Swedish winger’s concussion, and Neely was non-committal in saying that Eriksson will be put right back into his spot on the second line.
“We’ll wait and see when Loui gets back, when he’s ready to play. I haven’t personally talked to Claude [Julien] or Pete [Chiarelli] with what the thought is there,” Neely said. “But Reilly has played very well for us with Marchand and Bergeron. He’s stepped up and handled that position and that role really well, because also he’s playing against the other team’s top line.
“They got pretty good chemistry going on right now, so we’ll see. Loui’s been out a lot this year, and we’ll see when he’s ready to come back and play what Claude has in mind. But you’re talking about a line that’s played well for us.
The conversation then turned to Olympic hockey, where Neely said the team that adjusts best to the large ice surface will be the most dangerous.
“I do root for Canada, but I also want to see the U.S. do well,” Neely said of his rooting interests. “I think it’s important any time there’s international hockey for the Americans to do well. I think it helps the sport in our country here. First and foremost, I’m most concerned with how our guys [on the Bruins] do and making sure they get out of there OK.”
Neely said he’s flip-flopped multiple times on his opinion of NHL players participating in the Olympics. From his perspective now as someone running an NHL team, he seems to favor the NHL players staying in North America for the Olympics.
“I thought it’s kind of cool as an NHL player you get an opportunity to play for your country,” Neely said of his initial thoughts when NHL players first participated in the 1998 Olympics. “But on the flip side now, I’m looking at it as we’ve gotta shut our league down for a couple of weeks, the risk of losing one of your top players to injury is a concern. And quite frankly, I think the 1980 Miracle on Ice was something that was pretty special for all those amateur players and the country itself, so you’re not going to be able to see that again. I think there’s so many good hockey players out there that don’t have an opportunity to play in the NHL, and that would be the pinnacle of their career, to play for their country on an amateur level.”
“I certainly can appreciate anybody that wants to play for their country, but we also get an opportunity to play in the best league in the world, so that’s a pretty good thing as well.”
As for the future of NHL players participating in the Olympics?
“There is a great concern, obviously and understandably so, when all your top players are playing somewhere else in the middle of the season, and you’re trying to compete for Stanley Cups,” Neely said. “Everybody’s holding their collective breath and making sure that players get out of there healthy.”
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