Bruins putting trust in Harry Sinden's experience

AP Photo/Steven Senne

You'll find Harry Sinden's name in the Boston Bruins media guide under the ownership and executive section.

The former Bruins coach, general manager and team president is listed as "senior advisor to the owner and alternate governor" right below owner Jeremy Jacobs, CEO Charlie Jacobs and president Cam Neely.

Sinden, 82, has been out of the spotlight since he officially retired on Aug. 9, 2006. That same summer, Peter Chiarelli was named general manager.

Under Chiarelli, the Bruins won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and returned to the finals in 2013. During Chiarelli's nine seasons in Boston, Sinden had zero influence on decisions and very little input.

But this new era under first-time GM Don Sweeney has an old-school feel to it. Sinden's name has been mentioned more in the past few months than it was during Chiarelli's entire tenure in Boston.

Neely and Sweeney have known Sinden for decades. It's obvious they respect him and want his legacy recognized once again. Since Neely returned to the organization in a management role in 2007, he has always talked with Sinden about issues facing the organization.

"I've enjoyed sitting down and talking with Harry," Neely said. "If he's around the office, which he isn't as much as he used to be, especially during the winter, if he's around it's always nice to talk hockey with him. I can't speak for Donnie, but from my personal experience I've enjoyed talking hockey and about our team with Harry."

Sinden was the team's general manager for 28 seasons and team president for 17. He's been on the periphery for nearly a decade, but his voice will be heard again.

"It's unique for me now to have Harry as a sounding board," Sweeney said. "Clearly, it's a much different relationship when he was general manager. [As a player] your agent is giving you a little insight as to how it is to deal with him on a contract. The best part about Harry is he gives you, I wouldn't call it unfiltered, but he gives you directness in the moment."

Sweeney described Sinden as always wanting to do what's best for the organization. No matter the situation, there's no gray area with him. Sweeney recalls Sinden having no problem telling a player if he was playing well or not.

"You didn't enjoy it at times, hearing that directness, but you could process it when you walked away from it," Sweeney said.

Since his career ended, Sweeney has built a solid foundation on the management side of the game and now he's in the director's chair. He has a script in place and his relationship with Sinden -- both past and present -- will help mold the rookie GM.

"Directness is important," Sweeney said. "I've always tried to look at things from a development trajectory for players to know where they stand and where they need to get to. As a player, that's something you have to appreciate."

During Sweeney's introductory press conference in May, Neely made it a point to mention Sinden numerous times. Neely wanted to make it clear that Sinden, who was involved in the interview process of the GM candidates, was there as a sounding board for the organization.

"He certainly hired his fair share of people over the years. For me, it was good to get another perspective," Neely said. "He wasn't there to make any decisions, but if there were some questions I had, or feelings I wanted to get from him, he was certainly open to let me know.

"He's seen it all and done most of it. He's been around the game for many years in different situations and you can pick his brain if something arises and get a different perspective from him."

The game has changed. The players have changed. The business aspect has definitely changed, too, so some might ask why a man in his 80s still has influence in the organization.

"When you're taking a history class do you not open a text book, or not read about what happened in the past and what can help you shape the future. That's all of us. Harry has this knowledge that you'd be foolish as a young general manager not to tap into.

"He has a wealth of experience that you can't trade; I don't care what business you're in. If you have people with experience, you need to tap into from time to time. It doesn't mean they're impacting the decision, but they help give you insight."

At the start of this offseason, a pair of longtime and successful general managers stepped down from their respective posts.

New Jersey Devils' Lou Lamoriello and New York Rangers' Glen Sather both decided it was time to hand over the reins. In New Jersey, Lamoriello, 72, hired Ray Shero as the Devils new GM. Lamoriello spent 27 years in that role and helped the organization win three Stanley Cup titles. He will remain as the team's president.

Sather, 71, had been the Rangers GM since 2000. He also won five Stanley Cup championships from 1984 to 1990 as GM of the Edmonton Oilers. As expected, when Sather stepped down in New York, Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton was promoted. Similar to Lamoriello, Sather will also remain team president.

Gorton, 46, has been in the Rangers' organization since 2007 after spending 15 seasons in a variety of roles for the Bruins, including assistant GM and interim GM before Chiarelli could officially take the job.

Having Hall of Famers like Sinden and Sather is an invaluable resource for Sweeney and Gorton.

"I think it's huge, especially for a first-year GM to have that kind of experience around him," Gorton said. "Harry, Glen or Lou, these guys have been around and they've all won, they've all had success. They've seen it all and done it all. I don't think there's anything they haven't seen, so to have that kind of expertise and experience around you as a sounding board is huge, knowing you can walk in their office and talk about relationships with coaches, or trades, situations and anything.

"To have their opinion right there is priceless. I always say to people: 'I'm one of the luckiest guys in hockey to work for both Glen and Harry.' They're both in the Hall of Fame while they're still working, so they must be doing something right. To have all those years of being able to listen to them and learn from them has obviously helped me to have some success."

Neely described it as unique.

"Those guys have seen the game evolve over a number of years and they've had to understand and adapt as well," he said. "Rules change, the game changes, players change, but it's good to have that wealth of information. To have someone you can tap into is a benefit. It's more about having conversations. I'm a big fan of having conversations and listening to what people have to say about the game."

Sweeney understands Sinden is trying to help the rookie GM and the organization as it moves forward into its next chapter.

"He knows he's not making the decision, so it's unfiltered but it's shaped in always trying to help what he thinks is best for the organization, what's best for a young general manager. From a voice standpoint, he's just a really good sounding board," Sweeney said.

While he would never compare himself to the likes of Harry Sinden or other Hall of Famers, Sweeney is trying to blaze his own career path as a general manager in the NHL. But Sinden will always be that extra "club in the bag" for Sweeney when he needs it.

"Some people will be critical of that, and other people will be complimentary of that and that's the business," Sweeney said. "You've got to expect people to have an opinion, but if you've got a person who has been part of history and had success, you might as well keep an ear to it."