BRIGHTON, Mass – As recently as the NHL All-Star break, Bruins players like Brad Marchand were adamant the reports Claude Julien’s job was in jeopardy were “media driven”, and weren’t based in reality.
Well, the underachieving group of players got a dose of NHL reality Tuesday morning when they received a group text messages from GM Don Sweeney stating that their longtime coach had indeed been fired. Furthermore, assistant Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had been named his replacement as interim head coach for the remainder of the 27-game season with the Bruins clinging to desperate playoff hopes.
Bruins President Cam Neely said in a statement that the move comes as the Bruins have performed under expectations this season.
“These decisions are not easy, and Don has my full support. I believe that we have a better team than our results to date show,” said Neely. “I also recognize that there are areas that we as a group need to improve upon. This decision does not in any way diminish Claude’s legacy as a Bruins coach. I would like to wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara didn’t make Tuesday’s practice as he was “feeling under the weather” according to Sweeney, but the other core members of the Bruins group felt appropriately guilty that their underperformance cost their coach his job.
“Obviously, it’s unfortunate. You obviously don’t control that,” said Patrice Bergeron of the organization’s decision to fire Julien. “Claude has obviously meant a lot to me, and I can only speak for myself as a player. He’s meant a lot to my development as a player, so I owe him a lot and wish him all the best.
“We’re the ones that aren’t executing on the ice, and we have to realize that this isn’t going to fix everything. We have to go out there and do the job, and be better as a whole.”
Similarly Brad Marchand has only known Julien as an NHL head coach as he’s worked from fourth line rookie all the way to NHL All-Star over his seven year career, and was taking his removal as head coach pretty hard.
“It’s difficult. It’s something that we kind of brought upon ourselves. We didn’t perform the way that we should, and that we’re capable of. Claude is taking the fall for that. Claude is an incredible coach and he has been for a long time. He’s won everything, I think, that you can win,” said Marchand. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for him in this room and we were fortunate to have him as long as we did. I learned a ton from him, and I can easily say I wouldn’t be the same player if he wasn’t my coach for the last number of years. It’s very disappointing and frustrating because this was avoidable if we had all done our jobs.”
The hope is that the jolt from Julien’s departure is enough to rattle some cages in a Bruins dressing room that had been far too comfortable lately. Judging by some of the shock and awe on display from the core group of B’s players on Tuesday afternoon, perhaps the move has already had some of its desired effect.