We knew it was coming. As of Tuesday morning, Claude Julien is unemployed. The controversial decision was only worsened by the timing, which ‘coincidently’ landed on the morning of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl parade – but that’s a story for another time.
At the end of the day, the Bruins parted ways with the winningest coach in franchise history, and have replaced him with interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, formerly an assistant under Julien. The team that struggled to find itself in the first half of the season has now been completely shaken up, for better or for worse.
Lack of Identity is Nothing New
Throughout the first half of the season, there were a variety of problems that hurt the Bruins. The most obvious issue was the lack of a backup goalie. The team made it clear that they can only win with Tuukka Rask in net, and an upgrade on the backup could’ve saved the Bruins a lot of trouble. There was also the inconsistency of the team’s offense. On any given night, the B’s could come out and net five or be shut out. There was no predicting the team’s success.
But out of all the problems the B’s have faced this season, the most glaring issue is the team’s lack of identity. Firing Claude Julien only worsens that problem.
As I’ve said before, Boston’s issues had very little to do with Julien. The Bruins’ fall from grace as of 2011 resulted from a number of poor decisions, but Julien was not a key player in those. Instead, the Bruins were grossly mismanaged in the Chiarelli era (I’m looking at you too, Cam Neely), and Don Sweeney hasn’t been able to rid the ship of the water that is pouring on.
The Bruins are in no man’s land and too scared to admit it. A solid chunk of Boston’s core from 2011, such as Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, are past their prime. The blue line squad that used to feature Chara in his prime, backed by Johnny Boychuk and company, now sits on the shoulders of an old Chara and an overpaid Adam McQuaid.
And as I have often asked, how would you rank Julien, Neely and Sweeney in terms of being good @ their jobs? Julien head and shoulders No. 1
— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) February 7, 2017
The players who should be leading the youth movement (see Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton), are now far, far away, without a comparable (or even noticeable) replacement. The Bruins have a future with Brandon Carlo, Colin Miller, Charlie McAvoy, and a pool of exciting young prospects, but they don’t seem to be in a position to build for their future – just look at the deal that they signed David Backes to last summer. That deal might make sense for a contender, but the Bruins are far from that.
Time to Admit Defeat and Move On
The point is, the team is being managed like a Stanley Cup contender. And while it’s absurd to think that after two Cup Finals in three seasons, the B’s would fall out of contention this quickly – it’s true. But for one reason or another, Boston’s core management group insists on steering the team as if they were still contenders, afraid to own up to the glaring mistakes that led to their accelerated demise.
Firing Julien was the final nail in that coffin. Any sense of direction that the Bruins had a week ago has been lost. When it comes to the future, your guess is as good as mine.
The most sensible move, in my eyes, is to rework the roster with the future in mind. Of course, I would have done this with one of the league’s best coaches still behind the bench, but I don’t make the decisions. Bruins fans who thought Julien was the issue will soon realize that he was not. As much as Julien-haters would like it, Cassidy taking over the team isn’t going to turn them into a playoff contender. In fact, I’ll be awfully surprised if they don’t plummet to the bottom of the league standings.
So, it’s time to rebuild. At this point, why wouldn’t you? Even if the Bruins miraculously snuck into the playoffs, would you really be satisfied? There’s a minuscule chance they make it beyond the first round. So what’s the point? It’s time to admit defeat and move on. This team isn’t going to win championships, so start building a team that will.
But, as we’ve seen, Boston’s management is too stubborn or too scared to start rebuilding. Perhaps that will change. Maybe firing Julien was their first step to rebuilding the franchise (as misguided as it may have been). Or, perhaps, tomorrow will be just the same as today, and the Bruins continue to sit in no man’s land year after year.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!