While some Bruins fans might be losing faith and trust in the Original Six organization when it comes to icing a competitive hockey club, the B’s front office is remaining staunch in their defense of the long term plan. Bruins President Cam Neely surely knows the natives are a bit restless after missing the playoffs two seasons in a row while failing to substantially upgrade their substandard defensemen corps, but the Hall of Famer remains optimistic that things will turn around this season.
“I feel we’re going to be a better club,” said Neely to CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast last week. “I think [David] Backes certainly gives us some options that we didn’t really have before. He could be a great third line centermen for us, and, depending on the game situation if we’re trying to shut somebody down while we’re protecting a lead, he could slide up with either [David] Krejci or [Patrice] Bergeron on the right side.
“That gives us some options: his leadership, his character and he’s a little heavier [player]. That’s an area where we’ve upgraded. Everybody talks about our bottom six [forwards] and I think that has improved. [We’re] adding a little bit more versatility and experience, and then I’m excited to see what these young players can bring to us.”
What about that pesky defensemen problem where the Bruins have failed to acquire the top-4 puck-moving D-man they’ve been looking to acquire since the day they dealt Dougie Hamilton? The Bruins were 19th in the league in defense last season, and they routinely had difficulty simply getting the puck out of their own zone.
“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-4 defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know Don [Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” said Neely. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.
“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”
As Neely alluded to, the Bruins have made some pretty significant changes over the last six months whether it’s adding Bruce Cassidy and Jay Pandolfo to the NHL coaching staff, hiring a nutritionist, making changes to their strength and conditioning staff and, of course, moving into a state-of-the-art practice facility at Warrior Ice Arena.