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OPINION: Bruins Are Now Cam Neely’s Team, For Better or Worse

In the past couple of days since Peter Chiarelli was relieved of his GM duties by the Bruins, it is clear that he was shown the door mainly due to under performance. So despite what you hear from the Bruins media, it was not because he “had a bad year,” and it wasn’t because he signed Jarome Iginla. It was after years and years of mismanagement.

But one thing that is coming to light is the power struggle that seemed to be taking place within upper management between Chiarelli and Bruins president Cam Neely.

According to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, Neely wanted more of a voice:

“This decision to clear out Chiarelli was about Neely getting a much stronger voice in the front-office hierarchy and doing away with a high-powered executive whose hiring predated his. It was a power move to elevate Neely into the most authoritative voice in the hockey-ops department. It’s something he’s sought for quite a while, but the team’s success — a Stanley Cup championship in 2011, an appearance in the Finals in 2013 — helped protect Chiarelli’s position.”

And you can’t blame Neely for wanting this. He is the president of the team after all, which is in no way a figurehead position. And certainly not for someone with Neely’s competitiveness. And Neely’s case was strengthened by Chiarelli’s continued mistakes with drafting and cap management.

From Fluto Shinzawa in the Globe:

“Jacobs and Neely were not happy with the team’s style of play. They didn’t like the club’s snugness against the salary cap. They weren’t satisfied with the next wave of young players to occupy spots once filled by Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk. Chiarelli’s draft whiffs from 2007-09 are catching up. Picks from 2007-09 are core players around the league. These are the GM’s responsibilities. For one season, Chiarelli came up short. But ultimately, the firing was about Neely’s power — and how he’s itching to use it.”

First off, 2007-2009 is not “one season.” It’s three. And if you are not happy with the team’s draft history – and let’s face it, a chimp could’ve picked Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton – and not happy with your team’s cap situation after years of over payments and no movement clauses, you reserve the right to make a change.

Now, what hasn’t really been asked is why Neely didn’t speak up sooner? We all know now that Neely put the kibosh on trading any worthwhile picks at this year’s deadline. And he admitted regret over the Seguin deal earlier in the year. But did Chiarelli have the authority to sign Reilly Smith, for example, without running it by Neely? And what about the Boychuk trade?

This looks to be an issue of too many cooks in the kitchen, and one cook kept burning stuff. And the newly minted CEO had one choice to make, maintain the status quo with the current GM with a decent track record but with several hiccups, or turn things over to the Hall of Famer and former Bruin who wanted more of a say in shaping the team now and moving forward. And he chose the latter.

One look at Neely during games and you know he still lives and dies with each win and loss, and it had to be killing him that he couldn’t build the team the way he wanted to. The new GM, whether it’s Don Sweeney or someone else, will look to shape the team with Neely’s vision in mind. Neely wants the Bruins to be strong and fast with the ability to score. As does everyone.

So now it’s all on Neely. He wanted this, and got it. And if it doesn’t work out, the heat will be squarely on him.

 


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Lifelong Bruins fan whose hockey career peaked in high school. Now a hockey dad.


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