The Boston Bruins’ regular season came to a miserable end last week on home-ice following a 6-1 defeat to the Ottawa Senators. The defeat capped off a terrible meltdown in Beantown, as the Bruins ended up losing nine of the last 12 games. If you can remember, the Bruins ended last season in a similar fashion, where they had the opportunity to lock-down a playoff spot, only to crash and burn at the final hurdle.
This season, to the opinion of many, this Bruins’ team was even worse than the one witnessed last year and to the teams credit, at one stage, they looked pretty good. They sat atop the Atlantic Division standings towards the last third of the season, before everything came crashing down around them. Claude Julien and co looked more than ready to put the doubters to bed as they seemed destined for the Stanley cup playoffs, especially within a conference as weak as that of the Eastern Conference, they were battling away with the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic lead. But anybody who honestly thought they could sustain something like a division lead, was smoking some strong stuff.
The Bruins were plagued with inconsistency all year long. From winning five, six games in a row, to losing five straight. All year long, you simply couldn’t predict what kind of Bruins performance was going to be displayed, and ultimately, that was the teams downfall. That and the fact that the team simply isn’t good enough at the moment. From the net out, the Bruins struggled. Goalie Tuukka Rask had his worst year statistically, and whether that’s the defenses fault or not, at times you have to be able to rely on your guy between the pipes. The teams blueline was perhaps one of the worst in hockey. With old guys getting older, looking slower (Zdeno Chara/Dennis Seidenberg), and the younger prosperous D-men not quite prepared enough for the fiery depths of NHL hockey (Colin Miller/Joe Morrow etc). As well as that, some guys just aren’t that good (Kevan Miller/Adam McQuaid). The forward units had their moments (Brad Marchand career high 37 goals/three players with 30+ goals), but couldn’t consistently take the load off the defense enough to power the Bruins to where they needed to be. Plain and simple, when it really mattered, the team didn’t show up.
Now enough about who sucks and who doesn’t suck quite as much. Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien took the brunt of the blame following last seasons disappointment and may have been lucky to keep his job. This year though, to even be anywhere near the playoffs with the team he had, is a very impressive achievement and he is absolutely not the problem here. GM Don Sweeney reiterated those thoughts by announcing today in both a letter to Bruins season ticket holders and via a press conference, that Claude Julien will ‘absolutely’ be behind the B’s bench next season. He also mentioned re-signing Kevan Miller, which wasn’t quite received as well as the previous news.
With Sweeney announcing that as early as he did, it sent out a very important message not only to the fans, but the Bruins players as well. There isn’t anybody better equipped to lead this team through this transition period than the Bruins’ all-time leader in coaching wins, Claude Julien.
Firing Julien would have been a huge mistake. A guy with his resume wouldn’t have been on the market for long, and would have soon ended up in either Montreal or Ottawa, finishing ahead of the Bruins in the standings for a number of years. Him staying, is the best option for the Bruins. It also says a lot about the character of Julien himself. He could have chosen to leave. Go and start again somewhere else. After the passed couple of seasons that option has absolutely been available, and with the teams recent struggles has no doubt been a very tempting one. But Julien has expressed his love and passion for the team and the city of Boston. They’ve been through a lot together, and he wants to see his team rise up once more, and return as one of the NHL’s elite. But the only way they can achieve this, is through change.
Even though the B’s farm system/prospect pool is pretty good, it’s impossible to rely on players’ who’s age is south of 21. It’s up to the likes of Don Sweeney and Cam Neely to get the Bruins’ cap situation sorted, and provide the coaches and players with the talent they need to win hockey games on a consistent basis, because without that the Bruins could be looking up at the rest of the league for a while.