Mitchell Miller saga: errors admitted, but the damage is done
For all of the questionable transactions of the Don Sweeney and Cam Neely regime, the Boston Bruins unquestionably made the worst decision in franchise history Friday after signing Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract.
The Bruins reneged on their commitment to Miller a mere 48 hours after they received justified public backlash. Miller showed minimal to no remorse for his repeated bullying since the second grade of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers and his family with his half-hearted apology on Instagram, along with completing his juvenile court-mandated community service.
The upper brass thought they did their due diligence in their vetting process before signing Miller. They didn’t even do the bare minimum.
Sweeney and company never reached out to the Meyer-Crothers family beforehand. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that the Bruins didn’t inform the league that they’d be signing Miller, a 2020 fourth-round pick of the Coyotes. Even with knowledge beforehand, Arizona rescinded Miller’s draft rights after receiving numerous rightful complaints.
Bettman also stated that Miller wasn’t eligible to play in the NHL until he met with him personally.
The Bruins could’ve easily avoided a public relations nightmare. They didn’t. The front office damaged Boston’s goodwill following a historic 10-1-0 start.
On Monday, Neely apologized for the most regretful move of his career. But no damage control could excuse Neely and the Bruins from this self-inflicted decision.
“I want to apologize on behalf of the Boston Bruins organization. It was a decision that we didn’t take lightly,” the Bruins’ President told reporters. “I felt based on everything that I knew that he deserved a second chance. … We like to take pride in what we do in the community and how we hold ourselves accountable. We dropped the ball, and I’m here to apologize for that.”
The Bruins alienated their fanbase. They also received blowback from multiple members of their established tight-knit locker room.
Zdeno Chara helped establish a tight-knit locker room upon the first year of his captaincy in 2006. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and countless others continue to carry over Chara’s blueprint on and off the ice.
The Bruins pride themselves on their camaraderie with one another. They’ve showcased outstanding characteristics away from the ice with their inclusivity and charitable contributions. The Miller signing was the antithesis of that.
Bergeron, Marchand, and former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno all shared their thoughts on the disturbing Miller signing before the Bruins faced the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday. Yet, even after hearing those concerns from an established core during the vetting process, the Bruins signed Miller anyway.
Amid the comments inside the locker room and the well-deserved public backlash through social media, the Bruins finally cut ties with Miller. Through all the turmoil, Bergeron and crew at least appreciated that the upper brass heard those concerns, albeit too little too late.
They also supported the loyal fans who cheer on their every move.
“Obviously, like anything, it’s not like everyone has something to say, but I feel like the general opinion was that. I’m glad that we were heard,” Bergeron said to reporters ahead of Monday’s contest with the St. Louis Blues.
“One, we appreciate the support of the fans. They’re the reason we’re able to do this job,” Marchand added. “I think it just goes back to management and the staff are trying to make the decisions that they best feel are going to help the team now and down the road. No one’s perfect. We all make mistakes, and this was one of those mistakes that, again, they’re now going back to making the decision they feel is best for the team. At the end of the day, everything that happens here is because they feel it’s the best move, and same thing now.”
The Bruins thought they’d add defensive depth to their thin prospect pipeline in Miller, who notched 83 points in 60 games with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL in 2021-22. But Miller didn’t earn his second chance after failing to show remorse for his heinous actions of Meyer-Crothers when he was 14.
The players in the locker room can move on from this distraction. But Boston’s upper management still needs to close this disturbing saga out.
The NHLPA may get involved in this. They’ll have 60 days to file a grievance with the Bruins over the termination of Miller’s deal.
Neely said he’ll try to reach out and apologize to the Meyer-Crothers family. The mother of Isaiah, Joni, reportedly said she’d be happy to talk to Neely even after she expressed disgust at Sweeney’s comments with the media over Zoom on Friday.
Neely also wouldn’t rule out assessing internal discipline to his staff over the botched process.