Top 10 things Sweeney and Julien might ponder on their summer vacation
Photo credit: Steve Babineau, Boston Bruins
Now that the scintillating Stanley Cup Final is over and the Blackhawks’ celebration of a third Cup in six years commences, Bruins’ eyes turn to next week’s NHL Entry Draft.
July brings the Development Camp and a swirl of possible trades and free-agent signings; August some down time for September’s training camp. The Bruins’ management have a lot of decision-making if next season’s outcome is to be more aligned with the group of teams that extended their past season well beyond the Black and Gold’s.
Newly named GM Don Sweeney has assured bench boss Claude Julien the distinction of the longest-running tenure as head coach with the same team when Detroit’s Mike Babcock jumped ship to Toronto. Julien also ranks second on the Bruins list of most career wins as the bench boss on Causeway Street with 351. He will need 37 more to eclipse Art Ross’ 387.
“It just means that I’m probably the next one to fall off the totem pole, right? That’s basically it,” Julien recently quipped to the media. “I’m going to try and make it last as long as I can. Don and I have had talks and have a very, very similar outlook on what’s needed and what we want to do.”
Here’s a look at the top 10 things Julien might do to make his stay in Boston as long as possible — with a whole lot of help needed from Sweeney.
10. The upper echelon – Get in line as No. 3 in the basic management structure of day-to-day operations. The organization committed to Cam Neely as No. 1 after Peter Chiarelli was signed as GM; Chiarelli then signed Julien. There was always a question mark about rank and decision-making with Chiarelli appearing to trump Neely when needed. Julien was able to let that dynamic play out to his advantage — until now.
9. Get the GM into the game – Lean on Sweeney to be around the team. That means on the ice in practice and in the locker room for pep talks and pastings. Chiarelli did not have the respect of the players to be that close to the action. Sweeney will.
8. Dinner on me, boys – Take the Fab-Four out to dinner this summer — separately. Julien won a Cup in 2011 and came close to a second with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci — and Tuukka Rask in 2013 — playing mega roles. Barring a major trade (see No. 1), it would seem that he still has their unwavering support, and the team’s success will hinge on this chemistry. Julien needs to validate that first-hand.
7. Quality minutes for “Z” – Play the captain less than 20 minutes a game, including power plays. Chara has three years left on his contract at age 38. With some 1350 career games, he can only be an asset by playing less minutes and having some of the pressure taken off his shoulders. Last season was his lowest production in a Black and Gold jersey.
6. Scrap the post-game scripts – No more “lack of finish” post-game analysis. The current Fenway meltdown has Sox manager John Farrell maneuvering Claude Julien’s post-game refrain of “lack of finish” to “lack of execution.” Make that manipulation. Both teams have too many players with mega contracts not playing to potential. Say it like it is post-game.
5. Fire in the belly – Get in a player’s face during the game, when needed. Not your style, Claude, we know. But these are hockey players, and one-goal games are not going away. Fire produces more energy than smoke.
4. King of the shootout – Unless the league ends shootouts, find a kid with great hands, quick feet and raw confidence, and make him a shootout specialist. Practice one-on-ones, review tape of the opposing goalie that night, and practice some more. Then stick him on the bench to study that opposing goalie until the shootout. How can a paltry entry-level salary and a woeful 14% shootout percentage – that cost the team a playoff berth – not be worth that investment?
3. Get back out there – Double shift players from the first two lines across the third and fourth lines, especially into the third period when the game is tied or down by one goal. That tactic was evident in the past several weeks – with good outcomes.
2. Who’s No. 1 – Name the top three players on the Chicago and Tampa Bay Rosters – or several other teams like the Rangers and Predators and Kings and Wild, just to name a few. Is there any Bruin better than any one of those six, especially at forward and on defense? If your answer is “no,” it’s time for the organization to restructure the team for the next 3-5 years. If your answer is “Yes,” can that one Bruin make the difference for a deep postseason run?
1. All-in for Stamkos – Whether yes or no to No. 2 above, put all current players, except Rask and Bergeron, and all draft-pick options on the table for a blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay to bring Steven Stamkos to Boston. He is not in Jon Cooper’s doghouse, but all indications the past two weeks of the Final seem to indicate Stamkos is not a Cooper keeper. At 25, Stamkos has 10 years of prolific productivity with 498 points in 492 regular-season games already; 35 points in 48 playoff games. Stamkos enters next season with a $7.5 million cap hit and becomes a free agent next summer when the Bruins lock him up for 5-7 years at whatever it takes on the dotted line.
Good luck, guys.