What Will The Bruins Do With Claude Julien?

Claude Julien is still coaching the Boston Bruins…for now.

The longest tenured coach in the NHL has garnered much discussion over whether he should keep his job heading into next season for the club. When Don Sweeney was hired as the new general manager back on May 20, he proclaimed that Julien was the coach “as of today”.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement on Sweeney’s part.

Since then, the pool of available coaches had been whittled down significantly. Mike Babcock is in Toronto, Todd McClellan is in Edmonton, and Dan Bylsma is leading the charge in Buffalo. Even if the Bruins decided to part ways with Julien at this point, the options are not as attractive now as they were when Sweeney was hired.

There should be enough information on the coach by now for Sweeney and president Cam Neely to make a decision. So why the wait?

Offensively Challenged

When Sweeney was asked about potential changes to the coaching staff, he said the following:

“You can be the best defensive team in the National Hockey League…but if you don’t create anxiety in the other team and have the ability to score goals in a time fashion or generate quality chances, then you’re going to find yourself chasing the game.”

Julien’s calling card during his time in Boston has been the defensive structure of his club. Including this season, the Bruins have been a top-10 defensive team more often than not. However, they struggled to generate much offense finishing 22nd in goals-per-game.

Furthermore, the third period was their Achilles heel this year. A minus-10 goal differential in the final frame is made worse by the 56 goals they could muster. Only Buffalo and Arizona scored fewer goals in the third than Boston did. Not the greatest of company a team with Stanley Cup dreams should be keeping around.

As Sweeney said, being one of the best defensive teams is important to success but generating enough offense is just as crucial. The Tampa Bay Lightning led the league in goals scored (259) and find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final. They only allowed five more goals than the Bruins all season, highlighting the need for a balanced attack.

The Decision

One would think two weeks is plenty of time for Sweeney to discuss things with Julien and the coaching staff. The rookie general manager said he would “take the necessary time” to evaluate their job performance and has stayed true to his word. However, time is running out to make an official decision.

The NHL draft is a little over three weeks away. Even though coaches play a lesser role in the draft process, it is a big ask for a new bench boss to evaluate the roster and find areas of weakness for the scouting staff to focus on. Julien knows his club fairly well, even though he might have been guilty of trusting certain players a bit too much in critical situations this year.

In addition, I expected Julien to stay if the new general manager was hired from within. So far, there has been no sign from within the organization that a coaching change is in the pipeline. However if there is one, who will truly be in charge?

Jeremy Jacobs, left, and team president Cam Neely
How much influence will Cam Neely have in deciding Claude Julien’s fate? (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Neely will be keen to assert his authority in a major offseason for the club. He is now firmly in charge, even with Sweeney in the big chair. This is Neely’s team but Sweeney is more than capable of holding his own and making the right decision when it comes to the Bruins.

The decision on Julien’s future has been long overdue. For a guy that has been a vital part of resurrecting the franchise, it must feel like torture to sit and wait for a phone call from upper management. Eight years of loyal service to the club deserves better. Coaching vacancies are filling quickly around the league and, if Julien does get the axe, will be short on options to find his next employer.

Sweeney and Neely have a big decision on their hands regarding Claude Julien. The clock is ticking for the Bruins brass to make a decision regarding their coach as the offseason progresses.