The waiting is over for Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien. General manager Don Sweeney ended the growing suspense on Friday with confirmation that Julien and his entire staff will return for a ninth season behind the bench on Causeway Street.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirms Claude Julien & his staff will return in 2015-16 ^JI
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 5, 2015
Sweeney made the announcement on Friday at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo.
“I wanted to make sure I put [any speculation] to bed that I’m fully supporting this staff and looking forward to working with them. Unequivocally, we’re moving forward with our group. I feel very good about that.”
Julien will enter his ninth season behind the bench on Causeway Street after taking over in 2007. He is now the longest active tenured coach in the NHL after Mike Babcock’s decision to leave Detroit in favor of Toronto. He will also have the opportunity to become the winningest coach in Bruins history, needing just 37 wins next season to break the franchise record held by Art Ross.
However, his job is still not safe. Julien will need to make some changes in his coaching style to accommodate the vision Sweeney wants from next season’s team. A focus on offense will be the calling card for a club that finished in the bottom-third in goals-per-game last year.
Here’s some suggestions for Julien to heed if he wants to keep his job throughout next season.
Play The Kids
Two of his best forwards down the stretch last season should see extended playing time next year.
Ryan Spooner (23) and David Pastrnak (19) were shining stars in March and April for the Bruins but did not receive the playing time their performances might have deserved. Spooner compiled 18 points in 24 games after his February call-up while Pastrnak made a good first impression in his rookie season with 10 goals and 27 points in 46 games.
Julien is known for being too loyal to his veterans that, to be honest, are not very good. Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille are two glaring examples of this. The Bruins’ bench boss rolled out his fourth line in all situations, especially late in close games. Julien seemed content to sit on leads rather than push the issue to expand them.
Spooner and Pastrnak are exciting offensive players but were held back in key situations last season. Both players finished last year with a five-on-five Corsi above 50 percent (50.2 for Spooner, 55.7 for Pastrnak), so they were not as defensively liable as the coach may have thought.
Now that Campbell and Paille are gone, Julien should learn to trust his two young forwards in an attempt to play the aggressive style Sweeney wants.
Push The Issue
Third periods were an issue for the Bruins this year. Sweeney brought up their game in Calgary against the Flames on February 16 as an example of what he wants his club to look like going forward.
“I looked at a Calgary game this year…where a team that was as hungry as what we used to be steamrolled us in the third period. We created very few scoring chances. They were in our end the whole night…they had turned the tide of the game, and there were too many nights where we weren’t able to do that.”
Boston raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first 21 minutes of the game and then proceeded to sit on their laurels. Calgary burned the passive Bruins for four straight goals and won in overtime.
The Black and Gold only generated 56 goals in the final frame this season while allowing 66. While they allowed the second-fewest goals to opponents, they scored the third-fewest third period goals of any club in the League. Only Buffalo and Arizona, the two worst teams in the NHL, scored fewer times in the final 20 minutes. Ouch.
It highlights the need for a more aggressive team that will not sit back on a lead of any kind. Julien’s style is notorious for protecting leads instead of trying to expand on them. It did not work last year.
The Bruins have to find it within themselves to push the issue and be more aggressive no matter what the score is.
Just Win Baby
Julien is going to be on a short leash when the season begins. Do not be fooled by anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. If it took Sweeney two weeks to make a decision, you can bet there was some points of dissention between he and team president Cam Neely.
The equation is simple. As long as the club is winning hockey games and playing well in them, Julien will still have a job. The Bruins brass will most likely give him until U.S. Thanksgiving and then assess where the club is in terms of the standings and personnel.
In the 23 games prior to Turkey Day last season, Boston went 13-9-1 and was in a wild card spot. This year, Julien will have to at the very least match, or most likely exceed, that number to stay employed on Causeway Street.
Step two of Boston’s offseason is complete. Claude Julien will be back but is not entirely safe yet. He will have some work to do to ensure the Bruins play an exciting, more aggressive style of game next season instead of the boring, passive structure fans have been subjected to in the past.