Claude is gone…CLAUDE IS GONE!!
Little late to the party on this one as well. But of course VERY deserving of comment, for sure. (Kind of) lost in the shuffle during the New England Patriots Super Bowl celebration, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was fired…and a week later was tabbed to take over the Atlantic division first place (though Eastern Conference 5th overall) Montreal Canadiens. Yup, the HATED Canadiens. Yup, the same Canadiens that fired Claude in 2006.
I’ve written over and over again in this space that it was time for Claude to go. It had been for quite some time. Missing the playoffs the last two years is inexcusable. Especially the way they choked down the stretch both years. And then being on course for missing the playoffs a third straight year this year. Just unacceptable. How could he still have his job after all that?
Not that it has all been his fault. It has not. Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and Peter Chiarelli haven’t necessarily given him the best roster in recent years. Maybe help is on the way with some of Sweeney’s recent draftees. But we may not know that for a while.
But you know what? Neely and Chiarelli gave Julien some pretty damn good rosters early in his tenure. Sure, he won a Stanley Cup. Just one though. He had a talented team that should have competed for a Cup many other years as well. You may say, “he went to another Cup Final”. I will then tell you that this was all well and good, but in a lockout shortened season not quite the same accomplishment.
People often forget that Julien was probably an OT goal against Montreal in the first round of the Cup year from being fired that year. And in the year they lost in the Cup final, they also dodged a bullet in the first round with that miracle win against Toronto. And some other colossal playoff failures: 2008-09, 116 points in regular season, 2nd round loss to Carolina. 2009-10, 3-0 lead in 2nd round against Philadelphia and lost 4 straight to be eliminated. The loss of David Krejci in Game 4 was certainly big. But to lose that game and 3 straight after and kind of blame that injury? Nope. 2011-12, first round loss to Washington (Chiarelli said the players were “tired” from the previous years’ Cup run…ugh). 2013-14, 117 regular season points, 2nd round exit to Montreal.
It all adds up. Why don’t/didn’t a lot of people see this?
He is a good coach, maybe better than good, but not necessarily great. And certainly not legendary, as some people (you again Magoon) seem to think he is.
Amazingly enough, as recently as about 5 weeks ago, I was convinced Claude was at least here through the season. I thought Donnie Hockey was blowing smoke when he told us that he hadn’t ruled out a coaching change. Apparently he was not.
Figured the contract would keep him here through the year for the most part. The Jacobs’ don’t like to eat money. Could they have known Montreal was going to jump in and (apparently) offset some of the dough owed Julien? Did they know/sense that the Canadiens were sniffing around? I doubt it, but I guess you never know with these sorts of things.
In any event, Bruce Cassidy is now the head coach. Logged about a year and a half as a head coach of the Capitals, getting canned during the 2003-04 season. Had to wait quite a bit for his 2nd head coaching gig…longer than most. Has tallied almost 900 games as a minor league head coach, including almost 500 since the Capitals role. Spent the last 5 years in Providence. Has had some regular season success, but not a ton in the playoffs. Supposedly has a good reputation with young players. Seems to have been groomed to be the next Boston head coach, though the title is still interim at the moment. Hopefully the rep with young players is true. And that it means he will implement them in faster than Claude. I will say this for Claude, having Cassidy on the bench with him this year with the feeling that Bruce was “the next guy” couldn’t have been a warm and fuzzy feeling for Julien. I know I wouldn’t have been excited about it.
So after all of the above, I personally am not buying the “interim” thing. I think Cassidy will officially be the next head coach. Unless of course they tank horrendously down the stretch.
But is he the answer? I have no idea. Does the fact that Cassidy is 3-0 since taking over and that Julien is 0-1 in Montreal mean anything? I think it probably means squat. Though I would definitely expect a better effort from a team in the immediate aftermath of their coach just being fired. I know I have seen that out of the B’s in their three games. Having not seen the Montreal game Saturday night, I can’t really completely comment on their effort. But they lost to an average at best Winnipeg team at home. So I would guess that is not a positive.
I will say that the offensive “game plan” is certainly more aggressive. The D corps scored 18 goals in the first 55 games. They have 4 in the last 3. This is the most noticeable difference to me…the D-men are waaaaaaay more involved offensively. Now, this could certainly lead to goals being given up in bunches at the other end because of their (over)aggressiveness. But hey, they have an “All-Star” goalie in Tuukka Rask, so everything should be fine, right? Ok, maybe not.
Either way, this is great to see. 14 goals in 3 games overall? I like that too. Small sample size of course. But after watching Claude’s system for years, even the 3 game stretch is refreshing. I eventually accepted Claude’s system, since they did win that Cup and were competitive and playoff-bound most years. But it doesn’t mean I loved it.
Cassidy’s system may not work long-term. This may just be the coaching change wakeup call. But maybe some of these forwards can showcase their talents more now. Maybe this system works with a lot of the youngsters on the way. Who knows?
Time will tell. Cassidy hasn’t changed the personnel really. Anton Khudobin is back. I like it. Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban are simply not ready to play in the NHL and may never be. Khudobin has been brutal this year, but has also been hurt and buried when healthy. Maybe the stint in Providence got his head back on straight and Bruce actually gives him some time down the stretch to keep him sharp. Peter Cehlarik is the only new body among the skaters. Impressed by him thus far…along with the line of Cehlarik/Krejci/David Pastrnak. But again, only 3 games. He played Zdeno Chara over 26 minutes in the last game…still entirely too much. Hasn’t appeared to change much ice time overall among the players.
So again…we will see. But there have been some encouraging signs for sure.
Nice 4 game West Coast trip starting tonight that may shed some more light on the situation. San Jose and Anaheim seem to be tough foes. Los Angeles and Dallas perhaps not…but LA is the 2nd night of a back to back. So maybe.
Definitely intriguing to see how they play the season out, starting with the trading deadline. There are 24 games left. I have no doubt that the Jacobs clan would love at least one round of playoff gates. So perhaps we don’t see much player change until the offseason. Especially the integration of many more youngsters. I don’t think Sweeney will overpay for pieces to prepare for what he thinks will be a long playoff run at the deadline. But I also don’t think he will deal major pieces away over the next couple of weeks either. It’ll be interesting to see how they balance things the remainder of this season.
But hopefully they will be at least on a better track. And certainly more entertaining to watch…
Posted on February 19, 2017, in Uncategorized and tagged Boston Bruins, Bruce Cassidy, Cam Neely, Claude Julien, Don Sweeney, Jeremy Jacobs, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Playoffs, Stanley Cup, Trade deadline, Tuukka Rask. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.