BOSTON – With the Black and Gold collapsing down the stretch and missing the playoffs by mere points for the second straight season, it’s only natural to wonder what the fallout will be for next year. At the top of the speculative list is the job security of head coach Claude Julien, who managed to survive the firing of general manager Peter Chiarelli when the Bruins came up one point short of the playoffs last spring.
This time around the Bruins got spanked by the Ottawa Senators in a lopsided 6-1 score that plunged a dagger into their playoff hopes, and left the Bruins at 93 points, falling short of both the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers for the playoff cut. So the Bruins head coach for the last nine years, with a Stanley Cup ring, a couple of Stanley Cup Final appearances and seven straight playoff appearances on his Boston resume, could find himself looking for a head coaching out in the hockey world in the weeks ahead as the heat gets dialed up in Boston.
Julien was lauded just last month for his nearly 400 career wins with the B’s that have him in first place all time with the Boston franchise ahead of the legendary Art Ross, but the coach couldn’t find an extra win hidden in the couch cushions in each of the last two seasons that would have put them into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That’s clearly on the players to a large degree, but it’s also on a coach in Julien that seems to fighting some of his coaching instincts in preaching a faster, more explosive, more open offensive style that allowed the Bruins to boast three 30-goal scorers this year in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. Couple that with some of the stalled development for young players like Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller that could have helped Boston a lot sooner than they did, and there’s some legitimate, fair gripes for the B’s coaching staff.
Patrice Bergeron said he hoped the Bruins would retain Julien for next season, but it’s hard to reconcile No. 37’s words with the fact the Bruins have displayed far too little urgency in the their game in each of the last two years.
“Well, I mean, it’s not my decision, to be honest with you. I’ve said a million times that Claude [Julien] has been the best coach I’ve had, and it’s definitely not on him,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It should be on us as his system is there, the game plan is there, and it’s about us executing, and we didn’t do that. So it should fall back on the players.”
The final straw might have been leaving his best players, like Brad Marchand and David Krejci, on the bench for this week’s shootout loss to the middling Carolina Hurricanes. That sequence mystified some Black and Gold followers given the Nose Face Killah’s scoring prowess with his shot and release. The shootout loss to the Hurricanes will be remembered vividly by Bruins fans that can point to that game as when things slipped away in Boston.
The bottom line: there’s no doubting Julien is one of the greatest all-time head coaches in Bruins history, and certainly the best of this last generation of hockey people.
But sometimes the fact Julien is a great head coach muddies up what the Bruins must do for what’s best in their future, and whether or not a proven coach like Julien wants to continue a prolonged, painful rebuild of the Black and Gold. One thing is for certain if he is let go by the Bruins: Julien will get scooped up immediately by Montreal, Ottawa or some other talented veteran group in need of a bench boss to put them over the top.