There are many questions surrounding the Bruins as they get ready to open the regular season next Thursday against Winnipeg (7 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden. Besides the roster battles and seeing how new GM Don Sweeney acclimates himself to his position, perhaps the most interesting subplot is the status of head coach Claude Julien. Think about it. He’s the longest-tenured head coach in the NHL (he’s been here since June 2007) but many people were surprised that he lasted this summer after former GM Peter Chiarelli was fired and star players like Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton were shipped out of town in unexpected, but ultimately necessary trades. In fact, many people think that if the Bruins struggle out of the gate this season (a real possibility with the infusion of so many new players plus the injuries to Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara), Julien could be the one to feel the brunt of the blame and could ultimately be dismissed.
With only one preseason game left: Friday at Capitals (7 p.m., NHL Network), the roster is getting trimmed down and the opening night line combinations come into focus.
“We’re getting near the end here and I think that there’s a lot at stake for many of the guys,” noted Julien. “So it’s important for everybody to be at their best. It makes for some interesting and good practices.”
By missing the postseason for the first time in his Bruins career last season, Julien was actually afforded more time this past summer to self-scout and most likely rethink some of his core philosophies. He typically has a short leash for young players, particularly ones who don’t execute on both ends of the ice. That’s why such gifted offensive talents like David Pastrnak (who Julien reminded everyone on Monday is still just 19-years-old) and Ryan Spooner should serve as a case study for whether or not the veteran coach is changing or sticking with his old style.
Julien’s resume speaks for itself (career record here of 470-278-10-102) with a Stanley Cup in 2011 and another appearance in the Cup Final two years later. Still, the Bruins are not in rebuilding stage yet which has to be one of the reasons that he kept his job even with Chiarelli (who had hired him) gone. Sweeney has worked in Boston’s front office for years so his transition shouldn’t be too bumpy. Julien and Chiarelli were close since they had previously worked together in Ottawa, and only time will tell if he can get on the same page with Sweeney. No one needs a good start to the season more than Julien.