Make no mistake, Claude Julien was the best thing the Boston Bruins had going for them in 2017. Over the last decade he was able to take underachieving teams and consistently put them in a position to succeed at a higher level than they were capable of.
However, as of Tuesday, February 7th, Don Sweeney and company decided going in another direction was best for the team over 50 games into the season. Following soul crushing defeats, most recently at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night, it was almost a foregone conclusion that something needed to change.
That being said, it may come as a welcomed surprise to some that the man who has been single handedly blamed for Peter Chiarelli’s miscalculation of the salary cap and questionable player movement, is gone. But for most, it is normal to feel a sense of emptiness. Being the most winningest coach in franchise history doesn’t come by accident and his decade long helm behind the bench which made him the longest currently tenured coach will not soon be forgotten. Giving the city its first title since 1972 and reinvigorating the passion that only Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque before him were able to create.
With inconsistencies in the playoffs and less than ideal performances come season’s end being the direct source to the decision that was made. Claude Julien may be a lot of things, but he is not a bad coach. Granted his reluctance to adapt to an evolving game at times was inductive to ripping your own hair out, but I digress.
Anyone can be successful with the right players in the right environment, but Julien never had complete control of player movement, and salary designation. Internally, the discourse between management and coach became more than apparent over the last year or so. And for better or worse as they say, a decision had to be made and a difficult one at the very least. With Cam Neely noticeably absent from the press conference held Tuesday morning, it has become outrageously obvious that the glaring issues with the organization weren’t just the coach.
Filling in the now vacant position is Bruce Cassidy. The 51 year old played professionally for the Chicago Blackhawks and more recently was named as Julien’s assistant entering this season. Cassidy commented that the promotion has felt like anything but, considering it has come at the demise of a friend. Now it should be noted that the promotion is on an interim basis, which more probably than not means yet another change at head coach may loom on the horizon. Through 55 games this season the Bruins have managed to keep themselves in playoff contention in a less competitive Atlantic Division. Sitting 26-23-6 places them 4th in that respective division, now only the top three teams per division make the playoffs with the possibility to qualify for two wild card spots.
Personally I take issue with how management handled the removal of Claude Julien from the organization. Waiting until the Patriots championship parade to make the formal announcement, in what I can only imagine was a lackluster attempt to take attention away from the severity of the situation. On the other side, perhaps it was an attempt to allow Cassidy some practice time to prep his team for San Jose Thursday night. Whatever the reason Cam Neely, the president of hockey operations not even making a public appearance at said conference is laughable at best. Leaving Don Sweeney to deal with the press alone. It felt like a major disrespect to a man whom the bulk of the players had nothing but the utmost respect for. A man who for all his flaws, and there were quite a few, managed to keep himself in the discussion as one of the league’s elites.
Claude Julien’s era is over in Boston and for what it’s worth he deserves to go out with respect and a sense of decency. Not with the covers thrown over his head and kicked out the back door. It doesn’t feel professional, nor does it seem like something that one of the NHL’s most sought after franchises should be doing. Don’t shed too many tears for dear old Claude. The 56 year old now free agent coach has more than enough experience to take a bubble team and make mold them into a contender. With Boston in 2007 as a prime example of just that. Winnipeg, St. Louis, Florida and now Las Vegas have all been rumored to be in the market for a new coach. Also don’t rule out a return to Montreal or even New Jersey, the teams he manned prior to Boston.
Au revoir monsieur Julien, I look forward to seeing you behind a bench in no time at all.