BOSTON — It’s safe to say that Claude Julien earned his contract extension with the Boston Bruins.
After stints with the Montreal Canadiens (from 2002-2006) and the New Jersey Devils — where he got fired by GM Lou Lamoriello with three games left in the 2006-07 season — Julien landed in Boston in 2007 and has not looked back since.
With one-year remaining on Julien current contract, Boston GM Peter Chiarelli was intent on keeping the core together that led the Black and Gold to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years during the 2010-11 season. And it all starts from the top as the Bruins bench boss is locked up for the forseeable future (details still yet to be announced).
“We feel we have come a long way in keeping the critical mass of this team. We believe its a strong team, and will continue to be a strong team,” Chiarelli said during Tuesday’s press conference at TD Garden. “One of the core component of this critical mass is sitting beside me in Claude Julien.”
At times during Julien’s tenure, the Bruins were hit with a good deal of adversity.
During his first season in Boston, Julien and his squad had to adjust without Patrice Bergeron, who suffered a concussion from then-Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, knocking him out for the rest of the 2007-08 campaign. With low expectations to start the season, the team rallied into the eighth and final playoff spot, and forced the top-seeded Habs, which downed the Bruins in all eight meetings that year, to a seventh game in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Obviously, the pride and joy of Julien’s career is last year’s Cup victory. But to this day, Julien still remembers that first season quite vividly.
“What we had was a hard, blue-collar type team, and those are the things that the fans remember from that year on how hard we worked to make the playoffs, [then] bringing Montreal to seven games, and Game 6 here [at the Garden] where people talked about it quite a bit,” Julien recalled. “I think that was great, that it wasn’t just all about winning Stanley Cups, but also certain things that make the fans happy about their team. I really felt proud of that group of guys, and I thought that was a good starting point.”
The momentum started to roll in the right direction, but there was still work left to be done after that seven game series against Montreal.
Despite avenging their first round loss one-year later, the Bruins left with a bitter taste in their mouth the next two seasons after surprising second round exits to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009, and Philadelphia in 2010; after blowing a 3-0 series lead. Because of that, Julien found himself on the hot seat from many fans and media pundits the year after.
Obviously, the end result wound up benefiting Julien, who’s willingness to adapt on both sides of the ice continues to pay dividends.
“Over his tenure, Claude has shown the ability to adapt,” Chiarelli said. “He’s had a very disciplined team, which is a testament to his coaching. At the same time, it’s a very tough team. That’s a difficult balance to maintain and he’s been able to do that with success. We [also] have the ability to score and defend. All of these areas, I’m happy with.
“It’s a testament to Claude and his coaching staff in their ability to adapt and change when he sees things a certain way.”
After signing the extension, Julien hopes to maintain the Bruins’ status as one of the elite teams in the National Hockey League and raise the Stanley Cup above his head again.
“I’m extremely happy to remain here in Boston…I couldn’t have asked for a better situation, personally,” he said. “Having said that, when I first came here I said that my goal was to try to win a Stanley Cup here in Boston, and we’ve accomplished that. Now, my goal is to win another Cup for this Boston franchise.”