Former Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien will be missed by the players, the front office and most importantly the fans.
When everyone woke up on the morning of Feb. 7, 2016, getting ready to see the New England Patriots on the duck boats once again for winning the Super Bowl for the fifth time, they knew they were in for a wild day. Little did Boston sports fans know what was about to come next. On that day, the Boston Bruins have relieved head coach Claude Julien from his duties. The team also promoted Bruce Cassidy to become the new head coach of the Bruins. Claude Julien closed out his time in Boston with a career record of 419-246-94. His 419 wins are also the most in franchise history.
Claude Julien had some great moments, some not so great moments and then some just downright horrible moments. Today is the day I break down Claude Julien’s near 10-year tenure in Boston. I could go deeper but I’m going to limit this to three big moments per category. Let’s start with some of his best moments.
Since day one on June 22, 2007, Claude Julien came here with a plan in mind. That plan was to get the team back to respectability. The Bruins in 2005-06 and 2006-07 had some of the worst seasons in recent franchise history. Former B’s GM Peter Chiarelli knew he needed to make a change from Dave Lewis quick.
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As soon Julien was let go by the New Jersey Devils after 79 games in 2006-07 Chiarelli didn’t hesitate. Many people forget the fact that Claude took that Devils team to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference. It just makes you wonder, what if Claude Julien was never fired in 2006-07?
In 2007-08, Julien implemented his defensive system that worked excellently with the roster sans Patrice Bergeron. Julien led his team to an eighth place finish in 2007-08 and brought Montreal to the brink of elimination. And just like that, the fans in Boston had their faith restored upon Julien’s arrival.
Maximizing The Abilities of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton
This line was assembled by Julien in the 2010-11 season when the team was in need of a dire spark. Thus the “Merlot” line was born. These group of guys always contributed to the team by penalty killing, blocking shots, dropping the gloves and even scoring some big goals down the stretch. That line gave the roster a ton of balance that showed grit, determination, heart and everything a Bruins fan wanted. Claude Julien got everything out of those guys he ever wanted and then some. This line played a major role on what was about to happen next.
Stanley Cup Champions
What a run. 2010-2011 brought so many good moments to all Bruins fans. Julien led the team to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. With hopes set high, the Bruins quickly went down 2-0 at home in the first round series versus their rival Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins then found themselves in a must-win situation heading up to Montreal. The Bruins won game three, then the coach unsuspectingly took the team to a much more quiet scene in Lake Placid, New York, the home of the “Miracle On Ice” 1980 USA team.
That was probably one of the most underrated moves that no one talked about during 2011’s run. The Bruins won game’s four, five and seven and beat the Canadiens. Julien’s 2011 Bruins became the first team in franchise history to come back from a 2-0 series deficit.
The Bruins went on to steamroll the Philadelphia Flyers in the second Round and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. The Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins clinched an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990. The appearance alone solidified Julien’s name in B’s history.
Bruins went down 2-0 in the finals against the Vancouver Canucks, the team lost hero Nathan Horton and all hope seemed lost. Claude made a few adjustments, moving newly acquired right winger Rich Peverley on a line with Krejci and Milan Lucic and adding Tyler Seguin back to the lineup.
With those moves, the series was completely flipped. The Bruins intimidated the Canucks with their physical play, Julien’s structured defense, and of course, Tim Thomas. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in seven games, breaking a 39-year curse. Then, before you knew it, the team was back in the finals two years later. Unfortunately, they ultimately fell short of their goal. Despite falling short, Claude Julien will forever be etched in Bruins history as one of, if not the best coach in Boston Bruins history.
Not Using Brad Marchand In Five Round Shootout VS Carolina Hurricanes
This one maybe a little knit-picky. But back in 2015-2016, Brad Marchand was on a red-hot tear in the second half of the year. He finished with 37 goals and led the team in goals by a large margin. With your season coming down to a possible shootout, sorry, but you absolutely have to use your leading scorer in that situation. The Bruins ended up losing the shootout when Noah Hanifin lifted the puck up over Rask’s shoulder and into the net.
Down one Goal and Using the Fourth Line With Four Minutes To Go
This one drives me crazy. How many times had the Bruins had an offensive zone faceoff, down one goal with four minutes to go with Claude Julien deciding to roll his fourth line? Usually, this is the time you have to shorten your bench and really go for it all. Instead, Julien would put out the fourth line – looking to balance his players. How many times did the Bruins fourth line score a goal in the final five minutes of a game down by one? Not many, that’s for sure. No way this should happen.
Since Julien arrived in Boston, he has notoriously had a non-existent power play for virtually his entire time here in Boston. Who’s fault is that? Maybe the players. Maybe the assistant coach that runs the powerplay. But doesn’t the Coach deserve some blame here, regardless? Think about it, the Bruins have consistently been below the league average for powerplay percentage for quite some time. It’s kind of crazy that he never figured that out in nearly nine and a half years here.
Blowing 3-0 Series Lead To Philadelphia Flyers And Lose The Series
Disgusting. Unacceptable. Disgrace. There are many other words that I want to use but can’t. This was one of the most gut-wrenching moments not just in Claude Julien’s tenure, but in Boston Bruins history. Given this was a total team collapse and losing David Krejci to injury didn’t help either. But where was the accountability? Losing a 3-0 series lead doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, it’s crushing. Luckily for Julien, he got another chance and he won a Stanley Cup the following season.
Blowing First Place Lead And Losing Nine Of 12 Games And Miss The Playoffs In 2015-16
This pretty much says it all. Again a total team collapse but this one falls entirely on the coach for not getting this team in the right mindset. Needless to say when you’re at the last game of the season at home versus a non-playoff team and get your teeth kicked in 6-1. Gross. This may have been the moment where he should’ve been fired.
The Development Of Tyler Seguin
One of the draft picks acquired for Phil Kessel ended up being Tyler Seguin. A player that was a can’t miss superstar. Yet somehow, Julien didn’t know how to use the young stud. When time’s got tough for Seguin, Claude constantly shifted him around on new lines hoping to get him going. I also think Claude held Seguin back from being a really dynamic player. Carl Soderberg in his first NHL playoff game got more ice time than Tyler Seguin. I get that Seguin was inconsistent with his on ice play and being a party animal off the ice, but he should’ve been handled better by the coaching and front office.
All in all, while some fans are up in arms about Claude getting fired, fans have to remember the good times. He may go down as one of the best coaches in NHL history. While some people may hate this phrase, I feel that this is the perfect time to use it. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Thank you, Claude Julien. Thank you for making Boston Bruins hockey cool again.