The end of an era was anticipated, and now it has finally happened.
The Boston Bruins and General Manager Don Sweeney have relieved Claude Julien of his coaching duties this past Tuesday morning.
Julien, who was in the midst of his 10th season with the Bruins, was the longest tenured active head coach in the entire National Hockey League. He is Boston’s all-time coaching wins leader with 419 career victories, compiling a 419-246-94 record and .614 winning percentage in 759 games with the club. He coached them to the Stanley Cup in 2011, brought them back to the Cup Final in 2013, and won the President’s Trophy in 2014. Rightfully so, Julien also won the Jack Adams Award in 2009 for most outstanding coach during that season.
To throw out an overly used metaphor, Julien’s tenure with the Bruins was a roller coaster. There is no question that this team and this city have experienced the high of all highs right in the pinnacle of his run with the B’s. Over the last three seasons, the lows were in full effect and the clock was ticking.
This season, the Bruins have compiled a 26-23-6 record (58 points) through 55 games. With that standing, Boston is out of the wild card spot and in danger of missing the postseason for the third consecutive year. To add to an even more insurmountable situation, the Bruins have played the most games out of any other team in the Eastern Conference. They did not capitalize on the opportunities that they had and have left the door open for the teams in front of them to pull away.
There comes a point in time where something had to be done to shake things up. Whether it is fair or not is a matter of debate, but the coach is usually the first to go. After what happened this past Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice, the writing was on the wall.
Having said all of that, Julien was, arguably, set up to fail once Peter Chiarelli left Boston for Edmonton. Julien was never Sweeney’s coach and the moves made by the front office always seemed to hinder the progress of Julien as a coach.
Yes, there is always room for improvement for any profession regardless of length of tenure. Complacency should be frowned upon.
Anyway, the rosters that have been assembled over the last couple seasons were teetering on the line between integrating young talent and scrappy veterans. It was as though upper management could not make up its mind about which direction to take the team. As a result, the Bruins have been stuck in mediocrity.
Julien still is a solid coach who proved that his system can work in the NHL. It just got to the point where a change was needed. He will certainly receive another head coaching gig as early as next season. Julien will go down as the greatest coach in the history of the franchise and he deserves all the respect in the world. However, the inevitable was prolonged instead of putting Julien out of his misery sooner than this. The Bruins were never going to win another Stanley Cup with Julien as the coach, not in today’s NHL.
Assistant coach Bruce Cassidy takes over on an interim basis. The Bruins will play their next game this coming Thursday night at home against the San Jose Sharks. How are the players going to react? We will not have to wait long to find out.