Interview with Don Sweeney, Assistant GM of the Boston Bruins

Published on August 24th, 2011

Don Sweeney

Center Ice recently interviewed Don Sweeney, assistant general manager of the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins when he visited the Reading Royals, their ECHL affiliate.

Center Ice:  You did not lose of lot of players from last year.  Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Tomas Kaberle to name a few.  Can you repeat with the players you have?

Don Sweeney:  We would like to think so.  Stanley Cup Champion has a nice ring to it.  To chase it again a lot of things have to fall into place but I think the core of our group has returned.  We lost big players like Mark Recchi and the leadership he brought; I played against Mark and I know what kind of competitor he is and the stuff he brought to our locker room; other players will have to step up.  Michael Ryder had a tremendous playoff for us, kind of a streaky player but a good offensive part of his game that will be difficult to replace.  Tomas Kaberle for some of the criticism he took was unjust; we got Tomas for a particular reason in moving the puck and how he was going to complement our group; he did that and we were successful because he was part of that group.  Moving forward we think we have some players that can progress and realize that the players in Providence can move up in the ranks and may be able to step in.  We think we have a team if we stay healthy and have solid goaltending is as good as last year and that is a pretty good starting point.

Center Ice:  Tyler Seguin as a rookie won the Stanley Cup and showed some flashes of his talent.  It looks like he could be a really good player down the line.

Sweeney:  Yeah there is a perfect example of a player who we think will continue to get better. Hopefully in the situations he played last year he has learned from; with an 18 or 19 year old kid we did not have the benefit of just rolling him out; we sheltered him a little bit; I think he has a clear understanding what the coach wants from him as well as his teammates.  In the Tampa series I think you saw that there was untapped potential there; he has to learn the competitiveness and the defensive responsibilities that it is going to take to win.

Center Ice:  Tim Thomas had just an unbelievable season last year.  Can you expect him to repeat the year he had?  Are you looking to give him more relief this year?

Sweeney:  I am not sure what the tandem split will be but you have to remember the year before Tuukka (Rask) lead the league in goals-against and Timmy rebounded off of the hip surgery.  Tim Thomas is going to want that number one position and he is not going to give that up.  Nobody is more competitive than Tim Thomas and he takes a lot of pride in that and he says he feels as old as he is playing.  He became our go-to guy and as the playoffs went on he got better and better.  To give up five or six goals in seven games in the Stanley Cup finals is pretty incredible.  In the biggest moments on the biggest stage Timmy plays his best hockey and if he going to want to continue to challenge, he is going to want to play.  The good part of it is we have a good young goaltender in Tuukka Rask and he is going to continue to get better and he is going to want to push for that playing time so it is a nice internal competition between two really good goaltenders.

Center Ice:  The power play was abysmal for the team especially in the final.  Can you get away without having a better one this season?

Sweeney:  Luckily it was not an Achilles heel for us and obviously it was a hot button topic during the playoffs.  We just did not find a way to be consistent with it.  We had pockets of games that it did give us a boost, scored a few goals but we did get away with it.  We won in spite of it but overall our specialty teams with our penalty-kill were good.  We have some personnel that we think we can put in like Joe Corvo that can respond with his mobility and transitional play.  We have some younger players that are going to be put in situations, Tyler (Seguin) being one of them.  We feel that we have the skill set to be a better power play unit.

Center Ice:  You rebounded and swept the Flyers this year but you basically had a different team than the year before.  You were winning game sevens and really showing some grit.

Sweeney:  Well we were down 2-0 twice and the Philadelphia series was the only one we did not trail; we did learn a lot from the year before; the guys faced the demon so to speak of rewriting history losing a 3-0 series.  There is always momentum swings in games and during series and certainly losing (David) Krejci in the middle of that series hurt us because we did not have the depth; on defense this year (Dennis) Seidenberg became a horse of a player for us during the playoffs and especially when he was paired with Zdeno (Chara) in the shutdown mode; of course Timmy got better each series.  Last season I think Tuukka may have run out of gas at the end of the year but you can’t take anything away from him because he got us there.  The rest of the team kind of stumbled but give Philly credit, they found their resiliency that we found this year and they got themselves on the doorstep of winning it.  I think we learned a lot from last year and I think the war of attrition speaks to that.

Center Ice:  Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara were such a force in the final and it looked like they regained strength after the Tampa series?

Sweeney:  Well there is no tomorrow in the finals; we lose both games in Vancouver and I think we did not play particularly well in the first game.  I thought Vancouver punched us in the nose a little bit but they just put the boots back on and went back to work; a lot of teams would have thought – down two games again, can we come back?  In games three and four back home we took it to them and said this series is far from over.  We have a better goaltender because he was playing incredibly well and very consistent. And that is not taking anything away from Roberto (Luongo) because he got them there as well.  It went seven games because of both goaltenders but that being said I think our team was built for the war of attrition; we got fortunate, we were fairly healthy at that stage and our players decided they wanted to win.