So why did the Bruins retain coach Claude Julien?
Several reasons, probably. But one has caught my attention.
The players apparently recommended it.
"One of the things I can tell you that I've learned recently is that our coach has not lost the room,'' said team president Cam Neely yesterday. "That's one of the first questions you ask, especially of someone that's been around as long as Claude and some of the players have been around as long as Claude. That has not happened, and if it did we'd have different discussions.''
Great. The same group of players who for three years running have puked on themselves when it mattered most are still listening to the coach.
Forgive me, but maybe that's the problem?
To be fair, I have no idea where Neely procured the information that Julien still had the ear of the team. But I can only assume it came from his exit interviews with the players. I mean, who else would be in a position to know?
However he came to that conclusion, it's still a scary one. The B's have been a horrendous big-game team for over two years now. Going back to the end of their 2013-14 President's Trophy winning season, when they blew a 3-2 series lead to Montreal in the second round, scoring one goal in the final two games, the B's have turtled in most of the big spots they've faced. They lost 9 of 14 down the stretch in 2014-15. They lost 9 of 12 down the stretch in 2015-16. They embarrassed themselves in front of 60,000 people against a bad Canadiens team at the Winter Classic. They cratered with the playoffs on the line in the season finale two weeks ago against a bad Ottawa team. We could go on. There are dozens of examples.
The point is that the coaches aren't getting the most out of their players when it matters most. And a lot of those players have been working with this coach for a long time. Perhaps part of the issue is that everyone is just a bit too comfortable with each other. Perhaps it's time for the players in the dressing room to get a coach they don't like so much. Not that that can last forever, but something has to give, right? If the B's bring back the same group of veteran players and the same coach, how is anything going to be any different?
The B's are attempting a tricky rebuild, what Jeremy Jacobs would call an "evolution, not a revolution.'' They are attempting to bring along young players and be patient with their prospects while also making the playoffs every year. Not easy. But the only way to pull it off is for the coaches to get the most out of the roster. That isn't happening.
Either Julien has lost his touch or his players aren't responding to him. Make no mistake, the talent has been there to make the playoffs -- the Bruins beat writers were adamant about that fact this past March and I trust them implicitly -- but it's not coming together when it counts. There's an issue with the mix of players and coaches.
So why would you ever listen to them?
E-mail Felger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on Comcast SportsNet.