Every head coach or manager in professional sports has an expiration date, it just so happens that the Bruins felt like Tuesday was the time to let Claude Julien go after 10 years in charge (he was the longest-tenured head coach in the NHL, by far).
The timing of the move was rough since it came at the exact time that the Patriots were getting ready to celebrate their fifth Super Bowl title with a rolling rally through the streets of Boston. General manager Don Sweeney claimed in his press conference that he didn’t want to “overshadow (the Patriots) or "mute his decision," but that is rather doubtful since they had the last few years to dump Julien.
So, how did it get this bad for Boston’s all-time winningest head coach who brought them a Stanley Cup in 2011, back to the Finals in 2013 and a Presidents’ Trophy in 2014? The Bruins (26-23-6) have been in a self-induced fog for much of this campaign, not to mention the last few seasons when a potential playoff spot has come down to the last game. The hope is that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy - who was brought on as an assistant last year and used to be the Providence Bruins’ head coach - can spark the club as they try to secure a playoff bid this spring.
“Expectations have not changed,” noted Sweeney. “We expect the players to make a push and get into the playoffs.”
In many ways, this was the only real move that Sweeney could make - at least during the season. It’s easy to blame the players, who deserve more than their fair share of the blame for this mess, but the team is hamstrung at the moment with the trade deadline approaching (March 1) and the belief that they can still make a run.
“It’s frustrating in here, because this is avoidable if we would have done our jobs,” admitted left wing Brad Marchand after practice on Tuesday.
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Defenseman Torey Krug added: “Obviously it’s a wakeup call to all of the players in here.”
He would never say it in public but in many ways, Julien is probably happy to start over somewhere else. There are plenty of holes on the current Bruins’ roster (particularly on the back end, which his is specialty) so now he gets to sit back (with two years left on his contract at $2.5 million per year) and choose his next destination. Make no mistake, in a market suddenly filled with other solid head coaches like Gerard Gallant and Ken Hitchcock, Julien’s name goes right to the top of the list. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the first head coach for the Las Vegas Knights who begin play next fall in the Western Conference?
Cassidy (who coached the Capitals in 2002-04) will have 27 games to prove worthy of a full off-season, training camp and 2017-18 regular season instead of the Bruins going out and finding another guy to be their head coach. No pressure, right? In Providence, he had coached Krug, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano - so Boston has to hope that his connection with some of its younger players will help to get more out of them consistently.