Bruins' new era has old-time feel

No one should question whether Don Sweeney is qualified for the role of general manager of the Boston Bruins. The 48-year-old former player and assistant general manager has all the tools to lead the organization into its next chapter as the eighth man to hold the position.

What may be in question, however, is how much of a hands-on role team president Cam Neely will have moving forward.

Neely is on record as saying he does not want to be a general manager and that he will not micromanage the organization. During Wednesday's news conference to introduce Sweeney as the next general manager, Neely said he did not simply hire his friend, he hired someone who will be "extremely good" and successful at the job.

"He's very passionate about the Bruins. He's passionate about our fan base. I think our fans will get to know Don a little bit better than they probably do," Neely said.

"As I said after we let Peter go, I'm not a micromanager," he added. "Don's going to be able to do his job, but I want to know what's going on. As president of the team, I need to know what's going on because if I get questions from ownership I need to know the answers. Don's the GM. He's going to be the GM. He's going to make the decisions and communication's going to be there. It has to be."

The fact that Sweeney knows the organization from "top to bottom" was the deciding factor to promote him, said Neely, who also pointed out Sweeney's work ethic and commitment to the Bruins.

"I'm excited about the challenge in front of us to get back to where we need to get to," Sweeney said. "I know what it's like to be booed in this city, and to be cheered in this city as a player. I expect, at times, to take criticism, but that's part of it."

It was interesting to hear CEO Charlie Jacobs, son of owner Jeremy Jacobs, talk about a new era in the Bruins' organization. In reality, this next chapter appears to be a return to what Bruins hockey was for decades before Peter Chiarelli spent nine seasons as the team's general manager.

Harry Sinden has been with the Bruins for over 50 years. He's currently a senior adviser and alternate governor for owner Jeremy Jacobs. Sinden was the team's general manager for 28 seasons and team president for 17.

After Chiarelli took over in the 2006-07 season, Sinden's voice wasn't heard as much. The Bruins needed a new direction, and Chiarelli took charge in delivering it.

At Wednesday's press conference, Neely went of his way to mention Sinden. Indeed, it appears that Sinden's voice will be heard once again. Neely explained that Sinden sat in on a few of the GM interviews.

"I've know Harry close to 30 years at a professional level. Harry was there more to advise a little bit, and for me to bounce things off of. I thought it was important. He has a lot of institutional knowledge, not just in the organization, but the NHL in general."

Chiarelli's impact in Boston was important and he helped build a Stanley Cup winner and perennial contender. Unlike the old regime, ownership started to spend money and gave the hockey operations the resources to become successful.

The organization learned what it takes to win in the NHL. Now, with Sweeney in place, the idea is to take some of the old philosophy and mix it with some of the new in order for the Bruins to find their identity once again.

Sweeney talked about creating the flexibility within the salary-cap structure as a focus of his new position. He'll continue to develop talent from within. The Bruins need to do a better job with the draft. Sweeney identified the challenges he faces and expects to conquer them all.

He wants the team to be more aggressive. It still needs the defensive mentality, but the new GM wants more offense and wants the more physical style of hockey to return. All of these aspects are on his to-do list.

"We need to get back to that mentality. We certainly have a number of players to go in that direction and make that change, and if other players aren't willing to do that, then we're going to make sure that we find and identify the players that are. I believe in that. The structure, the accountability piece that it takes to win and to be a part of this organization has to be in place."

As far as the coaching staff, Sweeney explained that Claude Julien remains in place.

"He's the coach of the Boston Bruins as of today, for sure," Sweeney said.

Sweeney has already talked with Julien and it appears changes could be on the docket. If Sweeney decides to tweak the coaching staff, that should be the least of his worries. Changes to the coaching staff aren't the issue. Everything falls on Julien. The players respect him and the rest of the staff.

There's been this new philosophy in the league in past seasons to fire the assistant coaches but keep the head coach in place. That does not accomplish anything. Julien and his staff deserve to be in place. The success or the failures of the team depends on the players. Put the right players in the position to succeed and the Bruins will have success.

"We have a coach in place at this time that has had a lot of success and been a big part of [reaching the Stanley Cup finals]. There will be some changes going forward, personnel changes. There will be staff member changes," Sweeney said. "When will we decide to make those? It will be in due time. But I'll make the right decisions based on what's the best decision for the organization, not necessarily the easiest one. I'll make what I think is the best one in conjunction with the great number of people I have a chance to work with."

Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said he's excited for Sweeney and the two spoke Wednesday morning.

"I'm really happy for Don," Bergeron said. "I have seen how hard he has worked to get this opportunity and I think that he has the experience to be really successful."

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and were invited to the White House the following season, some members of the hockey operations staff weren't allowed behind closed doors with the president and the rest of the team. They had to watch from the cheap seats. Sweeney was among them.

Now, he gets a front-row seat in the Bruins' drive toward another Stanley Cup.