Claude Julien got absolutely hosed by the Boston Bruins organization. Out of the nine seasons he spent with the Bruins, he led the team to the playoffs seven times, bringing them to the finals twice and winning the whole thing once. Over his career with the B’s, he’s posted a .621 win percentage, which is the 10th best percentage of active coaches in the NHL. These statistics are evidence of a great coach, reinforced by the fact that after Julien was fired by the Bruins earlier this season, he was hired almost immediately after by the Bruins’ dreaded rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens fired their head coach just so they could scoop Julien up, that’s how valuable of an asset he is. The question then begs to be asked, “Why did the Bruins fire the longest tenured coach in the NHL?” The team was 26-23 when he was fired, still a playoff contender. The reasons were not Julien’s fault at all and were actually the result of years of mismanagement in the Bruins’ back office. Three of Boston’s four centers are over 30 years old and not a single one is playing at the same level as they were back in 2011. David Krejci is en route to a 50-point season, about 20 points less than what he averaged between the 2008-2016 seasons. Patrice Bergeron has been sidelined with injuries this season, but regardless, his production has been down as well. Our star defenseman is turning 40 this year. Just look at the Bruins’ shooting percentage; seven percent, the second worst in the league. The Bruins just signed 32-year-old David Backes to a five year contract worth $30 million. The B’s once had Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin, but those players were replaced by Jimmy Hayes. Hayes has five points this season after playing in 46 games. In a sport dominated by youth and speed, slow and old simply will not cut it. To let a program age is to let it fall in decline and that’s why the Bruins missed the playoffs in the 2014-2015 season for the first time in seven years.
These issues are not Claude Julien’s fault. They are decisions made in the higher office with GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely. One decision those two made was to replace one of the greatest coaches of all time with Bruce Cassidy, a mediocre, minor league coach who has backed up Claude since 2016. The only NHL experience Cassidy has had is with the Washington Capitals, a team he led to a measly 39-29 one season and then 8-16 another season before being fired. Cassidy’s early success with the Bruins is impressive, but it’s no indication of long-term prosperity.
Many interim NHL coaches have fizzled out after early win streaks. Cassidy has strung together four wins, the longest streak the Bruins have had all season, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that Cam Neely and Don Sweeney are drowning this organization.