The Seat Is Red Hot For Bruins’ Coach Claude Julien

Claude Julien might be getting sick and tired of answering questions about his future with the Boston Bruins.

The veteran head coach joined team president Cam Neely in a press conference on Thursday to promote the club’s season opener against the Winnipeg Jets. Everything was normal and routine until a reporter decided to spice things up and ask Julien about his job security.

“I’m not even thinking about that. The only time I have to is when the media asks me.”

Ouch. Talk about a zinger.

Neely decided to chime in and offer his thoughts soon after regarding the subject.

“It’s really unfair to start the season where it’s out there that the coach could be on the hot seat,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to Claude.”

Unfair, eh? That’s not entirely true, especially considering the source.

Perpetuated From The Top Down

Neely was very vague when it came to Julien's job security early in the offseason.(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Neely was very vague when it came to Julien’s job security early in the offseason. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Neely is the same man who played a major role in originally floating around the idea that Julien could get the boot after missing the playoffs last season. After all, Neely and team CEO Charlie Jacobs who said that the decision regarding the coaching staff would lie with the new general manager after Peter Chiarelli received his pink slip.

Even after promoting Don Sweeney to the big chair, Julien was left to wait almost three weeks before an official decision was made to bring him back; therefore, one could argue (and rightfully so) Neely contributed to the idea that his coach could be in the unemployment line this past summer.

Instead, the Hall-of-Famer took his subtle jab at the media for…well, doing their job.

“I believe if it wasn’t written, I don’t know if the fans would be saying anybody’s on the hot seat,” Neely said. “If it’s written enough, people start to believe it.”

Well, there’s reason for Bruins fans to believe Julien is in danger of losing his job.

System Malfunction

One of the biggest criticisms regarding Boston’s bench boss is his defensive system and a commitment to preventing goals. It was primarily one of the major reasons he was hired back in 2007. The Bruins were the second worst defensive team in the league allowing 285 goals a season prior to Julien’s arrival. They improved to 11th in the 2007-08 campaign and have finished no worse than that since.

It’s important to have a stout defense but, as last season proved, it’s not everything. The Bruins ranked 23rd in goals scored (209) and struggled to convert on their chances. Furthermore, the killer instinct that was present in years past went into hibernation last year. Boston scored just 56 goals in the third period, third-worst in the league ahead of only Buffalo (54) and Arizona (50).

Their minus-10 goal differential in the final frame last season was a damning statistic on their complacency to simply protect leads instead of looking to expand them.

At his introductory press conference back in May, Sweeney expressed his desire for the club to be more aggressive on offense this season. Julien is the farthest thing from an attack-minded coach but will be expected to turn his players loose when the time is right. Will he be comfortable adjusting a system that has largely been a success during his stay on Causeway Street?

Complacency Creeping In?

It is admirable Julien is about to enter his ninth season behind the bench in Boston. He’s now the longest tenured coach in the NHL after Mike Babcock left Detroit for Toronto in the summer.

The other side of that coin is the complacency that comes with it. Last season was exactly what the Bruins organization needed to recognize the failures of not only Chiarelli but the coaches and players as well. It was a time to perform an organizational evaluation of the mistakes that were bound to catch up with the franchise.

It was also a wake-up call for Julien. The same system that worked during the Stanley Cup championship season in 2011 and run to the Finals in 2013 is starting to lose its luster. The messages in the locker room and on the bench could be the next to go, as well.

It’s time for the coach to tinker with his system enough to keep the players on their toes and incorporate a more exciting style of hockey, which would be a welcome change of pace for Bruins Nation.

After last season’s disappointment, changes were sure to be made. Claude Julien was made to sit on pins and needles for a while as his job status was up in the air. Now with just days to go before the season opener, the pressure will be on him to prove the decision to keep him around was not a mistake by management.

If the club gets off to a slow start, the Bruins brass will have to think about firing Julien.

Will it be unfair for Neely and Co. then?