BOSTON (CBS) — Boston Bruins president Cam Neely broke his silence on Thursday, joining 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Massarotti for the first time all season.
It went about as well as you would expect, given the last time Neely was on the program it seemed like he wanted to check them both into the boards. But the interview spanned a number of tough topics for the Bruins president that he addressed, starting with the firing of Claude Julien.
Neely explained the timing of the announcement of Julien’s firing, which included a press conference during the Patriots’ championship parade, in the same way that GM Don Sweeney explained it. The team wanted to maximize practice time with interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“Frankly, we looked at the schedule and Don was like, ‘If we do this now, it’ll give Bruce [Cassidy] two days of practice with the team to make some changes that he would like to make, to give us the best chance to win tonight [against San Jose],” said Neely. “Then we hear about a parade, so do you say to yourself, ‘Do we do it the next day and not allow Bruce to have the opportunity to have two days of practice before we play?'”
Neely rejected the idea that the Bruins were trying to bury the story of Julien’s firing while most of Boston’s attention was on the Patriots.
“You have to understand, we knew we were going to get pounded for doing it on the day of the parade. We knew that going in,” said Neely. “I don’t understand how we’re trying to hide anything. It’s impossible to hide anything with social media. How are we going to hide anything?”
Speaking of hiding, Neely raised eyebrows when he was not present at the press conference. He rejected any notion of having an issue with that.
“I don’t know how many presidents are answering [questions] with their GM when their GM makes a move,” said Neely. “What I don’t understand is, why can’t people separate the fact that I’m not the GM?”
As for the coaching change itself, Neely said the Bruins will look different in the offensive zone under Cassidy but generally run the same system that the team had under Julien. Neely believes that the Bruins still have a team that’s good enough to make the playoffs and a coaching change could provide the spark they need.
“We still feel, based on the other teams in our conference, that we still have a chance, obviously, to make the playoffs,” said Neely. “We’re not giving up on that. We want to see what kind of voice Bruce will bring to the team.”
The coaching change didn’t necessarily happen because of any personal issues with Julien as a coach, but Sweeney “felt a change was needed.” Neely did, however, note that Sweeney and Julien sometimes disagreed on the implementation of younger players into the Bruins’ lineup.
Neely repeatedly mentioned backup goaltending, the team’s performance at home, and the play of certain core veterans as issues permeating the team and contributing to their underachievement. He mentioned David Krejci and David Backes by name and didn’t sound totally averse to trading veterans at the deadline.
“We’re certainly going to look at what’s the best way to improve our club,” said Neely. “Is it going to be [a matter of] making harder decisions? Yes.”
Michael Felger closed out the interview with a series of questions about Neely and Sweeney’s media availability, which is virtually nonexistent. Neely hadn’t done an interview with any local sports talk radio shows in months while Sweeney rarely speaks to the media in any capacity. Neely admitted that while he doesn’t have a problem with the questions, it’s not the most enjoyable experience for them.
“It’s painful. You guys are painful,” said Neely. “It’s not unfair, but it’s painful.”
Listen to the full podcast below: