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Claude can…stay??

Yup, you heard that one right!

Let’s face it, this year’s version of the Boston Bruins isn’t making a long Stanley Cup run with Mike Babcock, Joel Quenneville, Toe Blake, Claude Julien or even Scotty Bowman as the coach.  All one needs to do is look at the personnel to make that assessment.

You can thank Donnie Sweeney and Cam Neely for that…with an assist to the (not so) dearly departed Peter Chiarelli.

As the B’s stumble along in their state of mediocrity, with an unfathomable and unacceptable home record of 9-10, let’s also address the real reason Claude is going nowhere:

The contract.

I know, I’ve said it time and time again.  There is now about a year and a half left on it.  Jeremy and Chaz Jacobs are not eating that, I can assure you 100%.

MAYBE if the B’s do not make the playoffs for the third year in a row, especially if they choke down the stretch similar to the last two years, Julien gets gassed after the season.  But something tells me he is here going into next season as well.

Why?

Good question.  But in reality, as stated above, does it matter who the coach of the team is with this roster?

I think not.

I have come to accept this all as fact.  Claude has had a nice run here.  But as I’ve also said for some time, the team needs a new voice.  Sometimes the coach just somehow wears out his welcome.  Players tune him out.  Or they don’t exactly follow the plan anymore.  It happened with Terry Francona and the Red Sox.  It happened with Doc Rivers and the Celtics.  Francona and Rivers had the same core for years and things just changed.  In Rivers’ case, admittedly the eventual parting had a lot to do with the more talented players aging and Rivers not wanting to stick around for a rebuild.  In Francona’s case, he seemingly kept softening, the players got too comfortable and eventually took advantage of him.

Side note:  You may ask, “Why has it not happened to Bill Belichick yet then?”  My opinion is that the Patriots have kept a strong core there that keep buying in (and winning) every year.  Since the roster is so large, the assistant coaches have more interaction on a day-to-day basis with individual players…therefore different voices.  Maybe above all, roster turnover in the NFL is somewhat drastic.  So…many reasons, I suppose.  Maybe I’m wrong…

Back to Claude…it is time to go, but what’s the difference?  Donnie Hockey recently said he isn’t ruling out a coaching change.  But that was a bunch of crap.

The Bruins are clearly in transition.  They are trying to balance at least one playoff round gate to line the Jacobs’ pocket with trying to integrate some kids.

Although…Claude isn’t integrating them fast enough from what I can see.  Austin Czarnik and Brandon Carlo have played decent roles this year thus far.  And Frank Vatrano has contributed since he came back from injury.  David Pastrnak?  Doesn’t count.  And he should have been playing more the last couple of years anyway.  The likes of Noel Acciari, Anton Blidh and Danton Heinen don’t see the ice enough when suited up.  Joe Morrow is on the roster, but there is a good chance he is actually dead.  Etc.

The fact of the matter is Claude will still go to the Dominic Moore, Tim Schaller and Riley Nash types before the youngsters.  Where is the Merlot Line when you need it?!

As long as Sweeney keeps these veterans around, Claude will do it.  As long as the Jacobs’ won’t let him go, Claude will do it.

I think Sweeney and Neely know this.  And they are ok with it based on the circumstances.  As long as Claude gives some of the kids SOME ice time, the fringe vets contribute and stay competitive and the better players on the roster carry their weight…this seems to be ok with everyone.

Including me.

Because I have begun to think that Claude is here for just the transition, barring unforseen circumstances.  Maybe through next year.  By then, some of the youngsters above will have hopefully established themselves.  Other youngsters are on the way and may break through.  The latter group includes 2016 draftees like Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic and Ryan Lindgren.  2015 draftees like Jakob Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn.  Other past draftees like Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara and Zane McIntyre.  Random other dudes like Sean Kuraly.  This does not include Malcolm Subban…what appears to be the colossal waste of a first round pick.  In any event, some of these dudes need to hit, right?

Claude doesn’t play kids, we know that.  He is probably humoring Sweeney and Neely by playing a few.  But once his contract is up and some of these kids hit, someone else will be coach.  I am convinced of that.

You may say, “Why can’t they deal some of those kids and get some established players/stars?”  I may say “easier said than done.”  Though I’d sign off on that too.  I have no idea what others think of these kids though.  So I am not sure a deal is coming.

I am no genius.  Far from it.  But I feel like I see the Neely/Sweeney plan.  You have the core veterans locked up for the next several years, partially due to Chiarelli handing out no-movement clauses like candy, but nonetheless.  These players include:  Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, David Backes and Torey Krug.  For better or for worse, all those dudes will be making at least 5.25 per year for the next several years, with various degrees of no-trade protection.  Maybe Matt Belesky and his 3.8 per through 2019-2020 is here too.  But thankfully he can be dealt if necessary.  Pastrnak has to be considered core too, but they will need to sign him when he becomes a restricted free agent after this year.  I imagine at this point Carlo is part of the core as well, but is locked up at less than 800k through 2018-19.  Perhaps Vatrano, who is signed through next year.

The rest?  Zdeno Chara’s contract is up after next year.  I have to believe they will keep him around until the end at this point, but it’s hard to see them re-signing him…at any significant dollars anyway.  Hopefully they will lose either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller in the expansion draft.  (If they go the three defensemen protection route, Z and Krug have to be protected with their “no moves” and Carlo is ineligible, same is true for Colin Miller and Morrow I believe, for whatever that is worth.  That means there is only one spot left for Quaider or Kevan).  God can only hope Jimmy Hayes goes in the expansion draft,,,maybe Anton Khudobin as well.  They’ll be out there anyway.

Then some kids come up and make a difference…under a new coach…as the franchise starts ascending again.

Is all of the above enough to make the franchise great again?  Not sure.  A move in free agency or by trade for another stud D-man won’t hurt.  But on offense and in net it may just be enough…if enough kids pan out of course.  And if the new coach encourages goal scoring more than Claude does.

So if this is the plan, and I truly feel like it is, why bother with a new coach at this very point in time?  I just don’t see it.

I have resigned myself to the fact that Claude will be here the rest of this year and possibly (probably?) all of next.  And you should too.

Lingering Bruins presser thoughts…

So I’ve been digesting for a few days the press conference the Boston Bruins management held on Wednesday.  Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs and Cam Neely took some questions from the assorted mish mash of reporters…you know, the local guys that always ask real pointed questions…NOT!

Anyway, truth be told, there was not a whole lot that was new from any of these head honchos.  In fact, I’m not sure why Jeremy Jacobs was even there.  Not many questions were directed at him.  And when there was something for him to respond on, he of course did not say much at all.  But I suppose it looked good to have his presence there in the center of the table.  Whatever…

Found Charlie Jacobs to be fairly useless as well.  But I guess he had to be there too.

So what did Cam have to say?  He did most of the talking and gave at least me a few points to think about:

*Right off the bat, Cam came out and said that not quite a year ago GM Don Sweeney presented a plan in which he thought would get them back to being Cup contenders and it included cap flexibility, stockpiling prospects and putting a playoff team on the ice.

Sssssoooo…I think this is the first time we’ve seen anything regarding a rock solid “plan”, no?  I mean, of course common sense would indicate that Sweeney and the organization would have some sort of formal plan.  Plus, you would think any GM candidate coming in to interview would have to present something to management in order to be strongly considered for the job.

In any event, it was kind of good to hear that…I guess?  You know what would have been better?  Some details maybe?  Especially since, you know, the “playoff team on the ice” didn’t happen.  I know Cam wasn’t going to divulge exactly what the B’s are going to do moving forward.  And I wouldn’t expect him to.  But it would have been nice if one of the reporters at least asked the question.  And maybe Cam gives us something more?

*Cam said he believes that this year’s group is a closer group than last year’s…and this year the players showed more passion.  Phew…that’s a relief!  Still ummmm…no playoffs though.

*Charlie said that the team “had some listless moments last season and some of it came back this year.”  And “the youth that Donny was able to inject into our roster infused enthusiasm and it was refreshing.”  Charlie was disappointed, but said this was a change…and a change for the better.  Yeah, there is that “infusing youth” thing again.  Still wonder who they mean.

*When they woke Jeremy Jacobs up and asked him a question whether it was hard and even at all possible to “serve two masters” (making the playoffs and trying to win while also rebuilding)…kind of what it appears the Detroit Red Wings are trying to do these days…Jeremy responded with some gibberish and “I admire evolution versus revolution”…and never actually answered the question.  Thanks for that one bud.

*Later in the presser though, both Jeremy and Charlie said they were willing to take a step back to integrate young players and not make the playoffs.  Charlie did think they could do both though.  Jeremy agreed.  But this is where he said his one interesting thing for the day.  “I thought we took a step back this past year for this process…thought we went with guys we had for a period of time and didn’t invest…you pay a price in this game if not investing in next generation…”  Hmmmmm.  It appears that JJ thought they should play the younger guys more perhaps?

*Cam:  “Claude did a great job coaching…tried to integrate young players and did a great job with the roster…”  No comment.

*Cam:  “Donnie worked extremely hard to move up in last year draft and tried throughout the year to get something done.  HE LAID SOME GROUNDWORK leading up to deadline and hopes he can get something done in offseason.  Defense would probably be at top of list as far as biggest priority goes.”  Ok, the defense being the priority is kind of obvious.  What kills me here is the “laying some groundwork part.”  Ugh.  Reminds me too much of Ben Cherington I guess.  But everyone always says it.  I just don’t like hearing it.  Instead of laying groundwork…GET SOMETHING DONE!!

*Neely said that he felt they had a productive offseason last year, “even with the curveball in there”.  What curveball was he talking about?  Dougie Hamilton not wanting to play in Boston and then Donnie Hockey dealing him for about 40 cents on the dollar?  Wish one of the reporters would have drilled down on that one.  And until any of these “prospects” show up in Boston and prove they are actually useful, I may argue the “productive” part as well.

*Cam said that he “had recently learned” that Claude Julien “has not lost the room.”  Maybe that is true.  But you just recently learned this Cam?  Kind of surprising I would say anyway.

*Lastly, this was my biggest takeaway.  When speaking about untouchable players in his press conference last week, Sweeney had said that Patrice Bergeron was and paused when asked about Tuukka Rask.  Neely was asked the same question, with the reporter referencing the Sweeney comments.  Cam then waxed poetic on Bergy, “Bergy is special, we all enjoy watching him play…”  Etc.  When he was done praising Bergeron, he said that if there were opportunities to improve the club, they’d have to look at them.  Not a word about Rask.

Sounds to me that Bergy isn’t going anywhere and they’d listen on Tuuks.  That’s how I took it anyway.  I’d listen on just about anyone, yes, even Bergy.  What if he can get you a haul?  But that’s me.

So there is a lot of work to be done regardless.  I think they all know that, but I was hoping to see a little more fire and/or anger in these pressers than I did.  Lot of obvious answers.  Not a lot of specifics.  And all that.  I guess at least they supposedly have a plan…

Wait…he’s STAYING?!

Surprised.  Shocked.  Stunned.  Incredulous.  Irate.  Disappointed.  Disgusted.

Use all of those words…and then some…for how I was feeling this morning when the Boston Bruins press conference started and GM Don Sweeney announced that Claude Julien was returning as head coach next year for his 10th season.

I think the reasons for my state of mind were very clearly spelled out in a pair of posts yesterday.  But I am still having a hard time coming to grips with the news.

I’ll live of course, so please don’t spend any time worrying about my well-being.  As if you were…but what do we have to look forward to next year?  I am really scared to even think about it at this very moment.

I just re-listened to Donnie Hockey’s and Claude’s presser.  Let’s have a brief chat about some of the answers that were given.  Because again, I said so:

*When Sweeney was asked why the quick decision on Julien as compared to last year, one of the things he said was “Claude really wants to be here…” and assorted related drivel.

So what?  I’d like to be there too.  But I’m not getting the job.  Why do I care if he wants to be there?  In a related question to Claude, he said he wasn’t one to bail on the situation as it currently was.  It shouldn’t have been his option.  Or was that a shot at Doc Rivers for bailing on the Celtics in their rebuild?  Of course it wasn’t a shot at Doc.  Just felt like deflecting for a minute.

Anyway, hopefully the decision to stay wasn’t really in his hands.  Sure he could’ve resigned I suppose.  But then the B’s would have probably blocked him from working elsewhere for the length of his contract (2 more years)…especially since the NHL went back to not allowing compensation for coaching defections.  So was Claude leaving on his own volition truly an option?  Doubtful.

*Sweeney, “Claude and I are aligned on what kind of team we want, a defensive style.”  Yuck.  But also, a lie?  Why did Sweens then try to make some moves last year to try to catch up to the state of the NHL these days?  Which is not really a defensive style.  Interesting…

*Sweeney and Julien both spoke often about “the implementation of youth.”  Funny, I didn’t really see much of that this year.  Well documented in the previous 2 posts.  What I omitted in those was also that Claude refused to play David Pastrnak on the power play this season.  Pastrnak should be one of the first guys on the power play, 19 years old or not.  No excuse for that not happening.

*Julien, “we felt that we were good enough to make the playoffs this year.”  Fantastic.  Was that the goal?  Reaching for the sky, I see.  Lovely.

*Sweeney, channeling his inner Dan Duquette, “take out the first 3 games and the last 13 games and we accumulated a significant run of points.”  WHAT?!  Sounds like the Duke’s “more days in first place.”  Or maybe he was reflecting on Peter Chiarelli’s “only one of 5 teams to make the 2nd round the last 2 years” comment.  Or any Major League Baseball pitcher that says, “if you take out my worst 8 starts and only take the best 17, my ERA is under 3.50, instead of 5.27” etc.  Bottom line, these quotes are all crap.

*Sweeney, “we don’t anticipate a major overhaul.”  And, “I’ve had conversations with all of our unrestricted free agents and if they are serious about coming back, I’d love to have them.”

First, they absolutely need a major overhaul, specifically on defense.  Second, do you know who the UFA’s are?  Here’s the list I saw:  Eriksson, Kelly, Stempniak, Liles, Kevan Miller, Gustavsson, Talbot, Irwin, Kemppainen and other minor leaguers no one’s heard of.  If they don’t bring ANY of those guys back, I wouldn’t mind it at all.  Loui, cuz I don’t want to overpay for him.  The others?  Meh…

*Sweeney, “Kevan Miller had a good year.”  I admit, I did not watch every minute of every game.  Not even close.  But those who did would surely not say the same thing.  Nice plus-minus though, I guess that was the key.  Disturbing to hear Sweens kind of mention Miller and Adam McQuaid as part of the core.  Ummmmm…

*Julien, in response to a question on whether the players had stopped listening (also related to the assistant coaches), “No.”  I may beg to differ.  That’s why guys were dealt last offseason, wasn’t it?  Clean up the locker room?  Should be another reason why some guys should go this year too…as long as Claude is staying.

*While we are on the assistant coaches, Sweeney, “Doug Houda will not be returning and the other assistants’ contracts are up.  Claude and I are discussing this…”  Yup.  The assistants will be the scapegoats.

*Sweeney, “players came to me and said “sometimes when we gave up one goal, it felt like 2.””  I guess I’m not sure what this means.  A shot at the offense and not being able to come back in games because the lead seemed insurmountable?  Well, Sweeney later said that “we were 5th in the league in scoring, we just couldn’t keep it out of our net at times.”  So which one is it?

*Sweeney, “we had a lot of trouble with 2nd periods.”  Yup, that’s what I was thinking.  Damn 2nd periods.  Really screwed them up this year.

*Sweeney, “understanding shooting lanes may be all our young defense needs.”  Nope.  They need to play, for one.  Not get their minutes jerked around.  They likely need lots of other things too.  Understanding shooting lanes is likely only a small part of what they need.

*Julien was also asked a question, where part of it was “Patrice Bergeron said you were the best coach he ever had…”  Bergy has played most of his NHL career under Julien.  What else was he supposed to say?  He had Mike Sullivan as a coach for two years and Dave Lewis for one.  Not hard to call Claude his best coach in comparison.  Or was he comparing one of his Junior coaches?  Providence B’s coach?  Bergy’s statement means nothing to me.  Stupid to even bring it up.

So even though the press conference turned out to be different from what I thought (and hoped), it was still pretty laughable.  What else are Claude and Donnie supposed to say, I suppose?  I’d rather have had them not have a presser.  It certainly decreased my confidence…as I am sure it did to many others.

Is that what they wanted?  Lower the expectations for next year even more?  Maybe.  Either way, not much of anything encouraging came out today.  To me anyway.

Let’s see what Cam and the family Jacobs has to say next week…can’t wait…

 

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