FOXBORO – Less than a year ago, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs declared Peter Chiarelli “one of the best in the business” amid a successful run as general manager of his Original Six franchise. But nine month later Jacobs admitted things changed quickly with Chiarelli fired back in April amid salary cap issues and a barren crop of prospects, and that the elder Jacobs was leaving the decision in the hands of son Charlie and President Cam Neely.
“What a difference a year makes, huh?” said Jacobs after the Bruins, Canadiens, NHL and New England Patriots had officially announced Gillette Stadium as the home of the 2016 Winter Classic with the B’s hosting the Habs. “We just find ourselves in a place where we didn’t want to be. It’s going to be a workout time. We had a change when we brought in Cam and Charlie, they wanted the change. They felt we needed the change, and that it was the right move for the franchise.
“I think Peter is a great human being, and a great hockey mind. I think he’s going to prosper out west (in Edmonton). He’s got a great young team there. We were not in the same position. It’s a cap environment we find ourselves in here, and you’ve got to look to the future. If you watch the success of the Chicago team, and I do admire them quite a bit, they dealt with their high-priced players early on and kept creating room. Every year, there was a change, not too unlike the change we see here (this year). We see some great players going elsewhere. Even to this year, you see very successful teams have met that problem. We didn’t deal with it in a timely enough manner and we found ourselves in a cap position that wasn’t attractive for us.”
Jacobs admitted he felt it was a time for a change with Chiarelli when the GM wasn’t willing to turn over the roster, and once and for all create the salary cap flexibility the B’s desperately needed to replenish their roster. The current group of B’s is getting older and slower with high priced veterans, and the lack of talented young players pushing those established vets created an environment where Chiarelli had to dump a valuable player in Johnny Boychuk for a couple of draft picks.
When the B’s upper management felt Chiarelli wasn’t willing to emulate the Blackhawks and purge the roster of some high priced veterans, that’s when Neely and Charlie Jacobs started the wheels in motion for the hiring of Don Sweeney. The new GM promptly traded Milan Lucic, allowed Carl Soderberg to walk in free agency and traded Dougie Hamilton while carving out cap space along with new additions like Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes.
Jacobs said Chiarelli’s time was up when he wasn’t willing to make those kinds of moves to significantly alter the B’s direction, but again that it was at the best of Neely and his son.
“When I recognized [Chiarelli] wasn’t prepared to make the changes that needed to be made. But that wasn’t so much my recognition as it was Cam and Charlie’s,” said Jacobs. “That’s their leadership that you have to talk to.”
And now it will be the leadership of Neely and the younger Jacobs, along with Sweeney, that will leave their imprint on the Black and Gold, and begin to show if their plan is much closer to Chicago’s successful blueprint than whatever unknown move Chiarelli had planned next in Boston.