Meeting with the media Friday afternoon in Buffalo at the NHL’s scouting combine, General Manager Don Sweeney confirmed what everyone was hearing: Claude Julien and his coaching staff will be back and behind the bench when the Bruins kick off the 2015-16 season.
“There’s people that have asked me. I would have addressed this before I had left for the combine if I had the opportunity in a group like this. I had really good discussions with Claude and all of our staff and, unequivocally, we’re moving forward with our group,” Sweeney said to reporters in Buffalo. “I feel very good about that and I’m actually meeting with them again tomorrow as they’ve been going over some stuff internally that they had been discussing at the end of the season that I haven’t had a chance to meet with them as a group that way.”
Entering his ninth season, Julien is now the longest-tenured head coach in the National Hockey League. That title was previously held by former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who is now the bench boss in Toronto.
As other standout candidates found new jobs, it became clear that Julien – the second winningest coach in Bruins history – would return next season. How long Julien remains the club’s head coach remains to be seen.
It is expected that Julien will be on a short leash and could be shown the door should the Bruins stumble out of the gate. Sweeney did not confirm that, nor did he deny it when asked if this was the case.
“Well, it’s an uncomfortable business. We missed the playoffs, but we had a team with 96 points. We had some adversity and some things thrown at us,” Sweeney stated to the press. “I just want to go to work and see the progress that we need to make. That’s part of the roster, that’s part of the scouting staff – that’s why we’re having a meeting here – that’s across the board.”
After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season, a lot of eyes will be on Julien and his coaching staff as expectations will surely be high for the Boston Bruins and they should be.
Should the Bruins fire Julien after a slow start next season, who replaces him will be interesting to see. NBC in-studio analyst and former B’s bench boss Mike Milbury and current Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy are the apparent favorites to fill the void if Julien gets canned.
With pressure from management to make things work and a seat that is already scalding hot, Julien and his staff have their hands full with what will be a different Bruins team than the one that failed to meet expectations in 2014-15.
To no surprise, reports have indicated that the Bruins have told Carl Soderberg that he will not be back with the team next season. Matt Bartkowski, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell will also be departing Boston for new destinations.
Since taking over as GM, Sweeney has made a handful of minor moves signing young talent to small deals in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough. On Monday, the team announced they had come to terms with forward Noel Acciari to an entry-level deal. Acciari led the National Champion Providence Friars in goals with 15 this past season.
Acciari joins Anton Blidh of the Swedish Hockey League and Joonas Kemppainen of the Finnish Elite League as recent signings by the Bruins.
With the Bruins already tight to the salary cap and a few open roster spots, some new young blood could be finding its way into their lineup.