On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, the Boston Bruins announced the dismissal of coach Claude Julien, with assistant coach Bruce Cassidy stepping in as the interim coach. This ends Julien’s ten-year stint as head coach. He was previously the longest tenured skipper in the NHL. Julien currently holds the record for most wins in the Bruins franchise; with the Bruins being an Original Six team, that is quite a feat.
The firing of Claude at this point in the season does seem a bit odd. With the Bruins underperforming (yet again), why now? After winning three games in a row against the Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins without Evgeni Malkin, and a talented Tampa Bay team without their star center Steven Stamkos it doesn’t make sense. It would seem as though they had righted the ship, then they turned back around and lost back-to-back games against the superior talent of the Washington Capitals and the up-and-coming Toronto Maple Leafs.
The straw that should have broken the camel’s back was the game against Detroit on January 18th where they blew not only one, but two three goal leads in the same game and ended up losing 6-5 in a shootout. Blowing those two leads is unacceptable in today’s NHL and that is not on the players; that is not on the front office; that is on the coach. If I were Don Sweeney and Cam Neeley, Claude Julien would not have been on the plane back to Boston after a loss like that. Instead, upper management decided to retain Claude through the All-Star break, all the while losing all but one game heading into the break.
The All-Star break is when you fire coaches. It gives time for the interim head coaches to take stock in their players and come up with a new plan of action. In a decision made with interesting timing, the Bruins decided to put Cassidy’s feet to the fire with just two days to prepare him for a West Coast trip with his first game being against a top 5 NHL team, the San Jose Sharks.
What we are witnessing from the Bruins front office is cowardice, nonsensical, and could ultimately end up working against the Bruins as a team. Why fire him now and give limited prep time to Bruce Cassidy to try to come up with a way to salvage this season and attempt to MAKE the playoffs this year, which Claude has failed to do for the past two seasons. The announcement was made hours before the New England Patriots’ celebration parade for their epic win in Super Bowl LI. All the New England media will be in the city of Boston covering the parade, while a scared Sweeney is holding a press conference at the exact same time. This is a bad look for the Bruins organization. It shows disorganization and a lack of confidence in their decision by trying to slide the announcement under the radar.
All the respect in the world to Claude Julien. He did tremendous things as the head coach of the Bruins, including bringing the first championship to the team since the 1970s. However, I do support the firing of Julien. They need a new voice in the locker room and I feel that Bruce Cassidy is the right man for the job for the time being, however the way the organization went about handling this move is questionable at best.