BOSTON (CBS) – Bruins president Cam Neely joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Massarotti program Thursday afternoon for the first time of the 2014-15 season.
Wednesday night in Detroit, the B’s snapped a three-game losing streak thanks to Reilly Smith’s shootout winner. Prior to that game, the Black and Gold showed some real issues to start the season.
“You never like to start the season like that. You have expectations of having a little better start than we did,” said Neely. “Last night was certainly our best game so far this early in the year. It was a start that was not what we wanted to see.”
David Krejci missing the first three games to injury certainly threw a wrench into their plans, which forced the team to scrap their initial idea of rolling out a Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Loui Eriksson first line.
Neely told Felger & Mazz that when Krejci went down, Claude wanted to move Loui Eriksson back down to the third line so he could “have at least two lines he was comfortable with,” and ones with solid NHL experience.
Eriksson has looked comfortable playing alongside Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly, and while there are no immediate plans to move him back up to the first line, “nothing is set in stone” in regards to the lineup.
“We’re gonna wait and see how it plays out,” said Neely. “We can’t sit here this early in the season and say, ‘This is our roster and this is how it’s gonna look.'”
Milan Lucic is one Bruins player who has come under scrutiny through the first five games, something Neely has taken note of as well.
“He’s off to a start that I think everybody including him was hoping it would be the opposite. We certainly expect more out of Milan and I know he expects more out of himself.”
Cam then responded to a query by Felger asking how much the player has improved in his time here.
“He certainly understands the game a little better than he did four years ago. Consistency has been an issue with Milan. It’s something I know he’s trying to address. He’s certainly not happy with the start, and we need him to perform at the level he’s capable of performing on on more of a consistent basis.”
The Bruins are currently in Montreal, getting ready to take on the Canadiens. We all remember the infamous handshake line and what Lucic promised to do to Montreal the next time he plays them.
“It was certainly said in the heat of the moment. If we were playing them two or three or even four nights later maybe it’d be a different story than months later,” said Neely. “Everything I’m hearing out of Montreal, they’re certainly bringing up what was said in the handshake line, which is understandable. I like what I read from Milan, and that he needs to worry about his game and get it going right now. He needs to go out and play the way he needs to play to be successful in this league. First and foremost that’s what he needs to focus on, and that’s what he needs to worry about. Milan is a proud guy. He’s come a long way since he’s come into the league. Sometimes you get away from that, what makes you successful. You have to remind yourself what you need to do to be successful on a regular basis in this league.”
The Bruins are in an obvious salary cap crunch situation, and before the start of the season they traded defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders for two second round draft picks and a conditional third round pick, a move that nearly the entire fan base disagreed with.
“We had to move some money unfortunately. We had to move some money to get cap compliant by the start of the season. It’s not like the other leagues when you can play over the cap and have a fine, if you will. You have to be cap compliant. We had a certain amount of money we had to get off our books.”
Felger asserted that maybe the Bruins could have parted ways with someone else rather than Boychuk, but Neely set him straight.
“The timing, I know, was not the best timing at all. Johnny was our top-4 defenseman, a great Bruin and played the way we like players to play. He competed hard, worked hard and was a great guy in the locker room. It was a difficult decision, there’s no question,” said Neely. “I know it’s hard for some of our fans to understand, but another factor was are we going to be able to resign him in the offseason, based on what the market is bearing for that type of defenseman? If there was other potential moves to be made, what would be the return? All those things combined it was a decision we had to make.”
Neely also addressed this notion that the Bruins are not “all-in” for a Stanley Cup, and some of the criticism the team has gotten from the media and fans in that department.
“We went for [the Stanley Cup] last year. This is the interesting part for me, is how people are saying, you know. . . we’re trying to win a Cup every year. Last year we went for the Cup and knew we were gonna take a cap penalty because of it. We expected to go further than the second round. If we went further than the second round, or ultimately won the Cup, then this wouldn’t taste as bad. But we went for it last year and knew we were going to have a cap penalty going into this year, and we’re paying the price. It’s a steep price, and we recognize that. We feel like we have a bulk of the hockey season here before the trade deadline to see what we got, and see if we can improve our team where we need to improve it.”
For the full conversation with Neely, including his assessment of Simon Gagne and fighting in hockey, listen below!
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