BOSTON -- The Bruins are in danger missing the playoffs for the third straight season, so they made the only high-impact move they could make: They relieved the winningest coach in franchise history of his duties Tuesday morning, firing Stanley Cup winner Claude Julien and naming Bruce Cassidy his interim replacement.
THE FIRING OF CLAUDE JULIEN
- Dave Goucher: Who should the Bruins for looking for as new coach . . .
- . . . and will it matter anyway?
- JANUARY 24: Classic Felger rant asking why Julien was still the coach
- JANUARY 22: Haggerty -- Bruins need to make a call on Claude Julien, one way or the other
- JANUARY 21: Julien calls question about his job security 'shock journalism'
The move comes after a rough 6-5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night that places them in a difficult, uphill climb for the postseason with just 27 games remaining. Clearly the Bruins, who've been kicking the tires on the trade market, are looking for something to shake up a team that's been stuck deep in the mud. Firing the coach was the only alternative for president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney.
The timing -- 8 a.m. announcement of the firing, 11:30 a.m. press conference by Sweeney -- unfortunately gives off the optics that the Bruins are trying to make this potentially unpopular move under the cover of the New England Patriots victory parade rolling through Boston at the same time. In the end, though, it probably couldn’t be helped. The logical thing for the club to do is make Sweeney and Cassidy available to the media right after the Bruins practice on Tuesday morning.
In any case, it seemed more and more obvious recently that Julien's days were numbered. The Bruins continued to play rudderless, uninspired and sloppy hockey, much as they have for about 2 1/2 seasons now. The capper may have been watching some veterans going through the motions in a must-win game last weekend against the Leafs. Mistakes, half-hearted back-checks, and porous goaltending may have pushed Neely and Sweeney to the point of no return.
Julien was in his 10th season with the Bruins after having been named the 27th head coach in team history on June 21, 2007. He was the longest-tenured active head coach in the NHL, and was Boston’s all-time coaching wins leader with 419 career victories, compiling a 419-246-94 record and .614 winning percentage in 759 games.
The Bruins advanced to the playoffs in his first seven years behind the Boston bench, and Julien owns the B’s career coaching record with 57 postseason wins while having led them to a Stanley Cup title in 2011 and another Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2013.
Cassidy, 51, was in his first season as an assistant coach with the Bruins at the NHL level after five seasons with the Providence Bruins, and has previous NHL head coaching experience with the Washington Capitals from 2002-04 where he helped lead the Caps to a 39-29-8-6 record and a postseason berth in his first season behind the bench with the team.