According to Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald, Head Coach Claude Julien had this to say about the struggling defenseman on Wednesday:
“First of all, he’s got to bring his intensity level up, he’s got to have a better compete level,” Julien said. “He should be easily a top two or three defenseman for us – and he’s not close to that now. He knows it, we know it, and he’s got to pick up his game. You can’t go up the ice half-speed, especially on breakouts and power plays, and expect that you’re going to surprise the other team with a pass. Everything’s got to be higher tempo.
“Our approach has been to try and work with him, but we’re almost 50 games in now. It’s time to take charge of the situation. Bring your intensity level up, because if you want to play like a (No.) 5 or 6 (defenseman), that’s what you’re going to get for icetime. It’s pretty simple: We’re going to do what’s right for the hockey club. He needs to pick up his game. He knows it and he wants to. It’s up to him to show us how much ice time he wants to get, or how much he wants to help our club.
“Patience is one thing, but at the same time you’ve got to get results.”
“Those habits that we’re talking about have to start in practice,” he said. “If you let things go by in practice (like) it’s not a big deal, then why do you think they won’t be corrected in the game? I’m not excluding myself in this. We’ve got to push him, we’ve got to find a way to get him to perform, because he’s too good a player to watch him play that way
Though I am a little bit surprised that Julien so blatantly called out Wideman, I have absolutely no problem with it. I loved Wideman’s play last year and felt as though he was actually one of the best defensemen in hockey. Terrific on the powerplay, Wideman was also an excellent puck-moving defenseman, which is a coveted asset in today’s NHL. This year, however, Wideman has been a disappointment to say the least. You can tell that he has not been the same player just by watching him. A glimpse at his numbers further verifies his struggles:
Last season: 13 Goals, 37 Assists, 50 Points, plus-32 in 79 games
This season: 3 Goals, 11 Assists, 14 Points, minus-8 in 42 games
Projected: 5 Goals, 19 Assists, 24 Points, minus-14
The drop-off is ridiculous and the Bruins need him to start producing down the stretch. Since nothing else has seemed to work, I have no problem with Coach Julien’s public scrutiny. Hopefully, this will finally light a fire under Wideman, who has been downright sloppy this entire season.