Neely on The Big Show: ‘It’s been a rough few days’
|05.17.10 at 8:59 pm ET|
Hockey Hall of Famer and Bruins vice president Cam Neely called in to The Big Show on Monday afternoon to discuss the aftermath of the Bruins’ heartbreaking Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and talk about the future of the club with the NHL draft, free agency and other big personnel decisions coming up this offseason.
‘We’re going to look top to bottom,’ Neely said. ‘Obviously, when you don’t win the last game of the hockey season, you have to improve your club, so we’re looking at all ways at doing what we need to do to improve the club.’
A transcript of that interview follows. You can listen to the entire interview on The Big Show audio on demand page.
Has the Game 7 loss hit you guys yet?
Oh, it hit hard. It hit hard on Friday night. It’s been a very tough few days, as you can imagine. Obviously, losing in the finals is a big deal, but this is really big, too.
Should the David Krejci injury and the return of Simon Gagne be seen as the turning point of the series, or when you’re up 3-0, should you win the series even when you’re up against those injuries?
Yeah, I think when you’re up 3-0 you have to find a way to close it out. Losing Krejci certainly hurt us. That was a big loss because what it did was we had to give Savard more minutes, and you know him stepping into the playoffs in the second round not in the condition the other players were, being out so long that he was. It was a big loss losing Krejci. Gagne, he came back and got some big goals for them at timely times in all of the games that he played in. But when you’re up 3-0, you have to find a way to close it out.
From the front office perspective, where do you start looking [players, coaches, etc.] for what went wrong with that series?
Well I think we have to look at the season as a whole, to be honest with you. The year as a whole didn’t go as we expected it to. Certain players didn’t perform to the expectations. Then, we found a way to make the playoffs and got out of the first round. Quite frankly, I don’t think a lot of people thought we would beat Buffalo, and we came out, played really well and were able to solve [Ryan] Miller and then get up on Philly 3-0.
So I think over the course of this next week, we’re going to sit down as a group and really just evaluate the whole season. I don’t think we should just look at it in this one little snapshot because the year as a whole didn’t go quite the way we had planned or expected.
Is there an issue with the character makeup of the club?
We’ve had this discussion, it’s been out there publicly as well, that maybe the loss of some of the veterans that we didn’t bring back for whether it was reasons to move on or cap space and giving our other guys new opportunities. We did have those discussions over the course of the year, and again we’re going to look at everything. We’re going to look top to bottom. Obviously, when you don’t win the last game of the hockey season, you have to improve your club so we’re looking at all ways at doing what we need to do to improve the club.
Could you not overreact to what you’re seeing right now? Because certainly the public is based on the way the series ended.
No absolutely. You’re 100 percent right. If we lost in a different fashion, then probably everybody would feel differently. But we gave up a three-game lead, and we gave up a three-goal lead. People should feel heartbroken because everyone else saw what was going on in the other series and having an opportunity to have home-ice advantage in the conference finals would have been huge for us. Playing Montreal, everybody loves to watch us play them in the playoffs, and it would have been a great series. But I think that’s why we have as a group here kind of look at the season as a whole because quite frankly if you just judge it on this series, you’re probably going to make some decisions that won’t be beneficial in the long run.
What was going on in Game 7?
Well they got that goal at the end of the first there where it kind of got redirected and found its way in. Then, for whatever reason, we came out in the second period and we stopped skating and stopped forechecking, and that’s what got us success in the first period. We came out hard, and we came after them. We were getting the puck in deep, and we were forechecking hard and created some opportunities for us.
It’s hard to climb into the players’ heads and understand what happened, but our forecheck just wasn’t there. We really just stopped forechecking, and Philadelphia just kept coming at us.
Have you already sat down to look at this club going forward?
We had our pro meetings in the first round of the playoffs. We had our scouts in here, and we had some pro meetings to talk about our team going forward. So yeah, those discussions are already started, and they’re going to be ongoing, obviously. We have more discussions coming up here shortly. We have the draft and the July 1st free agency period. There’s going to be a number of discussions about what we’d like to do, what we can do, what we hope to do.
What was the most alarming part of that series?
Well, Game 5 to me stands out. I always feel that when you have the opportunity to close out a team, especially at home, you have to seize that opportunity, and we came out really flat for whatever reason. I don’t really know, but it’s something where we should have come out like we did in Game 7. Actually, when we lost that game, I thought there was a better chance of having a Game 7 than not, and we did end up having a Game 7.
Then, you look at Game 7 as kind of a situation that you don’t want to be in regardless of if you’re at home. But Game 5 to me was a little disappointing with the way that the team came out because I thought we’d come back from Philadelphia saying, “Oh my God. We have an opportunity to close these guys out. We don’t want to go back to Philadelphia.” Then to come out with that kind of a flat effort was something that stood out for me in that series.
Some hockey players say once you’re coming off the ice, you have to come off because the next guy’s coming on. Where’s the culpability in that situation?
Well I think that’s really the rule of the thumb. When you’re coming, when you change your mind, the player that’s jumping on, he’s focused on where do I have to go when I get on the ice, especially when the play’s moving back into your defensive end. It’s really one of those things where you decide to make a change, you have to get to the bench. You can handle playing a man-down for a few seconds, but you can’t risk having too many men on the ice.
Have you guys spent time going back and forth on where you want to go with this team in the future? Does it change every week?
It doesn’t change every week. There’s a philosophy here that we’ve tried to stick to. Then, obviously, certain things unfortunately change without your control, and then you have to bob and weave a little bit. For the most part, we have a philosophy here that we’re looking to try and put together to accomplish winning another Stanley Cup. We thought this was going to be another good stride for us to get to another round, to get these players in another round and give them the experience of what it’s like to be at the minimum in the final four.
Zdeno Chara has said that maybe the team was nervous. How much does that concern you hearing that from someone like your captain?
Obviously, I think nerves do play a part. I was nervous in playoff hockey. Once you step on the ice, it’s a different story. It was for me, anyways. If you’re not nervous, you have to check for a pulse. You can be nervous and still perform well. It’s just how do you handle those nerves, really.
Would you tell the media you were nervous?
I never really thought about that. If I played well, I would [laughs].
Are there any particular spots on this team that you think need improving?
Depth is a big thing. If you’re going to go deep into the playoffs, you’re going to need more depth than maybe we have or had this year available to us, because as everyone knows, it’s a long grind season. Then, once you get into the playoffs, it picks up and you’re bound to run into some injuries like we had and most other teams had. We’ll have to upgrade our depth a little bit on the forwards. Our D, we’ve acquired a few new D over the course of this year and the trading deadline so I think up front if we had a little more depth that would beneficial to us.
Obviously, our power play did much better in the playoffs, but over the course of the regular season, I think we’re in the type of scenario where we could certainly improve on it. But that goes with the type of player personnel you have. We had some guys who offensively struggled and had off years. We need to have them pick their games up a little bit to where their games probably could be or should be. Offensively as a team overall, it’s well chronicled that our goal-scoring was way off this year, so we have to look at addressing that as well.
How much of a challenge is it going to bring back a lot of what you want to bring back and improve the team with the way the team’s salary cap situation is?
It’s going to be a difficult challenge to get all of that done. I’m hopeful that players will really enjoy playing in Boston, and they see that we are heading in a direction that will hopefully get us a Cup in the very near future. I understand that it’s a short career for most players, and they look at what kind of contract they can get. My hope is that when push comes to shove if it’s fairly close and similar just based on what we’re able to do that guys would choose to play here.
Are you facing a situation where Edmonton could play some games with you in the draft?
I’m sure that when you’re holding the No. 1 you might try to extract something from people behind you. The way we feel about it now is that we’d be happy with either one of those guys [Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin]. It’s a decision that Edmonton has to make on which one they want. From our perspective, we feel that both those guys are going to be elite hockey players. It’s something that we’re looking at very closely. Hey, listen, that’s their decision to make. As far as we’re concerned, we’ll be happy with whoever’s left, which is going to be a player that should be a franchise-type player.
Not that I’m aware of. I haven’t heard that from our coach, so I’m not aware if he was thinking that at all. That’s a tough decision to make, too. Obviously, if you do put Tim in and we lose, which we ended up doing anyways, but if you put in Tim and lose, then the question becomes, “Why did you put Tim Thomas in?”
Do you get to where you were without Tuukka Rask?
I don’t think so. I think we would have struggled to make the playoffs. Who knows what would have happened in the first round. Clearly, down the stretch, Tuukka was playing really well and giving us opportunities to win hockey games.
Did you watch Game 1 of the Philadelphia-Montreal series?
No. Then when I saw the score, I was even more frustrated.