BRIGHTON -- Don Sweeney kicked off his press conference addressing the Claude Julien firing by making an apology, but it wasn't to the coach he'd just canned after 10 mostly successful years on the job.
Instead, the Bruins' general manager made an apology to the New England Patriots for announcing the Julien firing on the day of their celebration parade through the city of Boston, and then holding the press conferences while the duck boats were rolling down the city streets in front of a million-plus fans.
"I don't want this day to take away from the great accomplishment of the New England Patriots,” said Sweeney. "But I wanted to take a few days to assess where we were at as far as making my decision with regard to making a decision with Claude.”
Clearly the Bruins had been mulling this move with Julien for some time, and they finally pulled the trigger after falling out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot with 27 games remaining. But why now instead of, say, the All-Star break, or immediately after the horrific loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, or even in the next couple of weeks with the bye week looming?
"Well, we had a couple of days and two days of practice here before we get into a few games,” said Sweeney. "So we have a real opportunity to sort of step back from the emotional piece of this, and allow our players to get away and vacate it mentally and physically. I thought it was a good opportunity, today and tomorrow, to get their feet on the ground in a practice environment, which we haven't had playing 50 games in 102 days. The schedule has been challenging in that regard.
"So I just thought the opportunity was there now as I was contemplating this decision, and the impact of the decision. Again I apologize that it fell on a day when so many New England fans are so excited, but I didn't make the schedule in terms of where these days fell on the practice schedule.”
Did anybody in the Bruins organization step in and say that maybe it wasn't such a wise move to announce the firing of a potentially Hall of Fame-worthy NHL coach on the day of a parade celebrating perhaps the greatest Super Bowl victory in NFL history?
"The owners, Charlie [Jacobs] and Mr. [Jeremy] Jacobs, and [team president] Cam [Neely], are there on making the decisions that I think we need to move forward," said Sweeney. "I can attest to the fact that I'm always thinking about optics or whatever, but I'm not going to make a decision just based on that. I'm very respectful of the achievement that [the Patriots] had, and I'm not trying to take away from it in any way, shape or form, or trying to mute the impact of our decision moving forward.
"As I said, the schedule presents us with a couple of days of practice and that it was important to make the move now. Mostly [it was at the time of the parade] because the PR Department explained that, once you've made the decision, you need to stand up and be accountable and acknowledge the reasons behind it and move on from there. I don't believe I'm downplaying the decision [to fire Julien] and how difficult it was at all.”
(That loud, beeping sound was Sweeney backing up the bus over his own PR staff when pressed for answers.)
Clearly the Bruins organization felt that it was important to hold practice on Tuesday morning to get ready for the San Jose Sharks later this week, and that waiting until the afternoon for upper management's comments about the firing wouldn't have been a very good look either. After all, there's no perfect time to fire a quality coach who's synonymous with success and the 2011 Stanley Cup title.
The Bruins undoubtedly made the decision they felt was best for their hockey club, and only time will tell if that's true. But the firing of Julien and the Patriots parade in the snowy streets of Boston will always now be intertwined together in Boston sports lore, and that means both weren't given the undivided attention they deserved.
That's on the Bruins for making a decision to fire the winningest coach in the organization's history on a day that should have been all about the New England Patriots. It's a rough first step to the post-Julien era.