A past that included breaking a 39-year Stanley Cup drought wasn’t enough to save Claude Julien in Boston. With the Boston Bruins in the midst of watching another season slip away from them, Bruins management decided that they had seen enough from Julien’s 10th season in Massachusetts, bringing an end to the longest tenure of any coach in the NHL by firing Julien on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t ready to commit on a longer-term basis with Claude,” Boston general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe upon firing Claude Julien. “I felt there was a level of frustration in our wins and losses . . . and felt we would be in a better position moving forward to allow our players to be assessed . . . as to who is part of our group.”
Julien leaves Boston as the winningest coach in franchise history, having won 419 games in the better part of 10 seasons with the Bruins. His tenure included bringing the Stanley Cup to Boston in 2011, marking the Original Six franchise’s first championship since 1972. Two years later, Julien brought the Bruins another Eastern Conference championship and fell two wins shy of a second Stanley Cup as Boston fell against the Chicago Blackhawks.
But the Bruins’ standards had begun to slip in the final years under Claude Julien, as they had missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons by fading down the stretch and losing their grip on a postseason spot. 2017 had shown signs of history repeating, as Boston has found itself looking up at Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto in the Atlantic Division, leaving them on the outside looking in at one of the division’s three guaranteed playoff places.
Although the firing of Claude Julien had been expected for several weeks once the Senators and Maple Leafs caught and passed the Bruins, the team was widely criticized by the Boston media for the timing of the announcement. Despite the Bruins having not played since a Feb. 4 loss to Toronto, they announced the decision on the same day of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl parade, giving their former coach an unceremonious exit.
Taking over behind the bench will be assistant coach Bruce Cassidy, who previously coached the Washington Capitals to the postseason in 2002-03, his only full season with the team. The following year, Cassidy was fired 25 games into the season as the Capitals tied for the second-worst record in the league and won the right to draft Alexander Ovechkin.
Cassidy won’t have much time to prove himself in Boston either, as Sweeney confirmed that the organization will put together a list of candidates should Cassidy fail to guide the Bruins to the postseason. As for Claude Julien, the firing makes him an early favorite to become the first coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, who will take the ice as the NHL’s 31st team in 2017-18. With Julien available, the new franchise would be in prime position to get a coach in place and begin to plan for the upcoming expansion draft.
Readers, does the firing of Julien make sense? Does Cassidy have any chance to get the Bruins to the playoffs? Will Julien resurface in Las Vegas next year? Sound off in the comments below.
Commentary by Dan Angell