Mitch's Sports Report: Julien Axed, But The Fault Dear Bruins Is Not In The Stars But In Yourselves

Feb 8, 2017

*Above headline with all apologies to The Bard

Ten years behind the bench, a Stanley Cup championship, and the most coaching wins in the history of the Boston Bruins franchise. Thanks for the memories, Claude Julien, now there's the door.

That was the message General Manager Don Sweeney, President Cam Neely and owner Jeremy Jacobs had for Claude Julien when they fired him yesterday, just as the duck boats were getting ready to quack on for the parade through the streets of Beantown for the Superbowl champion New England Patriots, and look, coaches get fired in sports all the time. Even really good coaches. Bill Bilichick didn't start his career with the Patriots, even though he'll likely end it with them.

But firing Claude Julien as a way to change the fortunes of a team suffering from such obvious self-afflicted management personnel decisions is an especially futile and kind of petty gesture. It's also the only relevant thing Sweeney and company can do to try and light a spark in a team that's spinning its wheels and has fallen out of the playoff picture, heading for an almost certain third straight year of missing the post-season. The Bruins have no trade leverage to make a big deal, and the market is thinner than ice in August anyway for a game changing player, and all the draft picks they acquired while trading away great players over the last 3 to 4 years won't be NHL ready for at least another year. They're hoping that having assistant coach Bruce Cassidy take over for Julien will prompt the kind of run the NY Islanders have been on since Jack Capuano was fired and replaced by former player Doug Weight, but don't count on it. The Bruins just don't have the horses to pull the cart. They're a one-line team depending night after night on getting way more than they can expect from Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand, their number one goalie is already exhausted from overwork, and they've traded away any decent back-ups like Martin Jones, who was in the fold for all of five minutes before being shipped out west for yet another draft pick who may or may not ever skate with the big boys.

This is not all Sweeney's fault, by the way. In the long history of Bruins management thinking they can trade away star players for workmanlike replacements and get away with it, former GM Peter Chiarelli's decision to send Tyler Seguin to Dallas for three players, only one of whom is even still with the team, and is benched more often than used on game night, ranks as one of the worst. But Sweeney also sent one of the best young defensemen in the game in Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for, again, draft picks we may never see. Milan Lucic was sent packing for the nearly invisible Matt Beleskey, (signed as a free agent), and a team that had all the potential to be a perennial contender like the Chicago Blackhawks after winning the Stanley Cup under Julien in 2011 is instead drifting toward irrelevance as the window grows ever smaller for players like Zdeno Chara, Bergeron, and David Krejci, who clearly deserve better.

And so did Julien. Was he the perfect coach? No, and I often got frustrated with his defense-first mindset that kept the leash a bit too short on players like Seguin and Pastrnak, but he was making adjustments to the faster paced level of play that's now prevalent in the NHL, and he didn't put together the roster that's regularly out-skated and out-matched by the league's elite and even sometimes lesser teams. He's just a scapegoat for a management team that isn't going to fire itself, and until the Bruins start recognizing that hockey is different than football and they can't keep trying to run the team like the Patriots, plugging any player into the system and making it work, they'll keep missing the playoffs and hearing the boo birds from fans who are sick of paying some of the highest priced tickets in the game for some of the lowest graded talent on the ice.

Elsewhere in the league, the NY Rangers are a good team. They're going to make the playoffs, and they beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 behind two goals from Michael Grabner and a season high 43 saves by Henrik Lundqvist.

And the Montreal Canadiens are also a good team, despite falling to the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 last night. Mikko Rantenen scored a hat trick for Colorado in the win.

Some hot stove baseball news, the NY Yankees added some power to their line-up for next season, and did it on the cheap. They inked last year's National League home run leader Chris Carter to a cap-friendly one-year, $3 Million deal. Carter hit 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers last year.