The Boston Bruins front office has been conspicuously silent following the team’s second consecutive late-season collapse that left the team just short of the postseason.
Now, a cadre of Bruins fans wonder – will Claude Julien stay or will he go?
Julien entered the 2015-16 season on the hot seat after the Bruins fell short of the postseason the previous April. A slow start only fueled the flames that Julien’s departure was imminent. But Boston turned it around and even briefly held first place in the Atlantic Division with roughly a month left to play, sparking Coach-of-the-Year talk for Boston’s career wins leader.
Julien reached that career mark on March 7, surpassing Art Ross with his 388th career win on the Bruins bench.
But just a few weeks later, Boston had slipped outside the playoff picture. Needing wins down the stretch, Boston lost 9 of its final 12 contests, including a blistering 6-1 loss to a non-playoff-bound Ottawa on the final game of the season in a must-win situation.
Julien will go down as one of Boston’s best coaches ever. He brought the Stanley Cup to Boston in 2011 for the first time in 39 years, and he helped the Bruins reach the Cup finals again in 2013. But a team that has failed to make the postseason in consecutive seasons may need a change.
So what should the Bruins do? Here’s a case for and against firing Claude Julien.
CASE FOR FIRING
For the second consecutive season, Boston not only missed the postseason but failed to win games down the stretch. Were it a case of injuries, one might forgive the Bruins’ inability to execute when it mattered most. But lack of execution when circumstances were most dire is a clear case that the locker room needs a new voice.
These two late-season collapses weren’t even Julien’s only brush with disaster in the home stretch. In 2007, Devils then-General Manager Lou Lamoriello fired then-coach Julien despite the team’s outstanding season. Lamoriello said he was concerned.
"I don’t think we’re at a point of being ready both mentally and [physically] to play the way that is necessary going into the playoffs," Lamoriello said at the time.
Julien’s been a successful coach in Boston, but fans are quick to point out his shortcomings. His reluctance to play younger players has irked fans for years, and Brad Marchand’s team-leading 37 goals (good for 6th in the NHL) wasn’t good enough to get him significant minutes on the power play, a questionable decision at best.
When the team made a notable switch from a defensive model to a faster-paced, more offensive game following a disappointing second-round playoff exit in 2014, some speculated that it might be time for a coach who better fit that philosophy. After consecutive seasons missing the postseason, it could be argued that theory is still true.
CASE AGAINST FIRING
In nine seasons as Boston’s coach, Claude Julien has won a Stanley Cup and reached another final. He helped lead this team to a President’s Trophy for the best record in the NHL. He’s led the team to seven playoff appearances and narrowly missed two others (last year the Bruins set a record for most points in a season without making the playoffs).
And in the past two seasons, he’s done so despite questionable decisions where Julien typically excels – on the defensive side of the ice.
With an aging star in Zdeno Chara, multiple injuries on the blue line, the losses of Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton, and young prospects who have yet to fulfill their promise, Julien has been forced to adapt on the fly. This team clearly (hopefully) recognizes the need to return to a defensive style of play, or at least increase the talent on the blue line.
If they do that, there’s no other coach you’d want running the defense.
A difference of one win in each season would put Claude Julien in his ninth consecutive postseason. That they missed is disappointing, but it speaks the ability for Julien’s teams to compete each and every season.
So where do you stand? Join the discussion on our Facebook page and let us know if you think Claude Julien should stay or go.
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