After much speculation in Boston, the Bruins finally pulled the trigger on firing head coach Claude Julien on Tuesday morning. The timing of the announcement seems to suggest they were hoping the shot would be silenced.
The team broke the news just a few hours before the New England Patriots' Super Bowl parade through Boston. General manager Don Sweeney's press conference was set for 11:30 A.M., conveniently just 30 minutes after the championship celebration was scheduled to begin rolling in the streets.
It's not unfair to assume this was a calculated move on the part of the Bruins' front office, as they've been criticized for news dumping before. They fired former general manager Peter Chiarelli on the same afternoon that Aaron Hernandez was convicted back in April of 2015.
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For a front office that has preached accountability over the past few years, it's looking more and more like accountability is becoming an issue within the Bruins organization.
Don Sweeney will participate in a press conference today for the first time in 119 days. It will be at the same time as the Patriots' parade— Dan Cagen (@DanCagen) February 7, 2017
Julien's tenure in Boston -- however unceremoniously it ends -- will be viewed with favor from most fans, and for good reason. This excerpt is taken from the Bruins' own press release of the firing.
Julien was in his 10th season with the Bruins in 2016-17, having been named the 27th head coach in team history on June 21, 2007. He was the longest tenured active head coach in the NHL. Julien is Boston's all-time coaching wins leader with 419 career victories, compiling a 419-246-94 record and .614 winning percentage in 759 games with the club. The Bruins advanced to the playoffs in seven of his nine years behind the Boston bench, and he owns the club career coaching record with 57 postseason wins. He led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011, a return to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and a Presidents' Trophy in 2014. Julien also won the Jack Adams Trophy as the league's top coach following the 2008-09 season.
That's not to say it's been rainbows and lollipops in his past few years behind the bench, though.
Boston has struggled this year under Julien and it was clear the seat was getting hotter. The team has missed the playoffs -- largely due to embarrassing late-season collapses -- in each of the past two seasons and is teetering on the brink of making it a third this year. That's unacceptable for a team with as strong a core as the Bruins possess.
But placing the blame for the team's failures on the coach's shoulders seems unfair and misguided. The team is tops in the league in possession metrics but has one of the worst collective shooting percentages in the league, suggesting that they should be much better if players could capitalize on their chances.
The team also is bottom-third in the league in team save-percentage. After a great start to the season, goaltender Tuukka Rask has come back down to earth, which may partially be attributed to being overworked in net. Rask's 44 appearances to this point are fourth-most in the league, and the Bruins have just one win without him between the pipes.
The back end of the roster certainly isn't anything to write home about, either. The Bruins lack depth and the only significant addition the team has made since last season's trade deadline was signing David Backes to essentially replace the departing Loui Eriksson this summer.
Firing a proven and well-respected coach before attempting to shake up the roster is suspect.
But what's done is done. Bruins assistant Bruce Cassidy will take over head coaching duties on an interim basis, and maybe the coaching change will spark a fire under the team -- as it often does in the NHL -- and propel them to the playoff appearance they apparently so desperately covet.
Even if it does, Julien's firing will still feel wrong and a little gutless, especially given the timing and circumstances surrounding it. Luckily for the coach, the general consensus from those around the game is that he won't be out of work very long.