Firing Julien may not be the right decision, but the inevitable decision
Is Claude Julien the Bruins biggest problem? No.
Is Claude Julien one of the Bruins many problems? Yes.
Despite sitting second in the Atlantic Division, eight points behind the now struggling Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins are in a world of hurt. Familiar issues have haunted the Bruins so far this season and if changes are not made sooner rather than later, it’s going to be a third season of playoff-less hockey in Boston.
And another summer full of questions.
Trade Brandon Carlo and change for Gabriel Landeskog? No thanks. Let another trade deadline come and go with additions like John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak being the only help added? No thanks. Shake up your management group? Not yet.
Fire your head coach? Well, it looks like that’s going to be step number one.
Sure, the Bruins issues are not all a direct result of Julien and his decisions. His top two centers in David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron have a combined 50 points. His trio of backup goalies that have made their way back and forth from Providence have a combined one win. Matt Beleskey, David Backes and Frank Vatrano have all had injury issues throughout the season, bringing more problems to an offensive core that already has depth issues.
Then there are the defensive breakdowns of late. Yes, Julien and his staff direct their defensemen where to be and who to cover, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the players to execute.
On the other hand, some issues have been a direct result of Julien’s string pulling. Through his first 24 games played, David Pastrnak had 18 goals and was sitting pretty behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals. After back-to-back December losses to the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs — two teams that entered TD Garden in last place at the time — Julien pulled Pastrnak off the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in an attempt to spark the second line. Pastrnak has just one goal in 17 games since the line demotion.
The decision to scratch Colin Miller against Carolina in favor of John-Michael Liles was head scratching. And let’s not even touch on the subject of how long it took for Jimmy Hayes to see consistent time in the press box.
It’s always easy to blame the coach when things go wrong, it’s usually the easiest piece to replace. But this Bruins team needs a wakeup call, and a new voice behind the bench may exactly be what the doctor ordered.
Too often this season the Bruins have failed to show up in games against teams at the bottom of the NHL barrel. The Maple Leafs, Avalanche, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and now Detroit Red Wings are all recent examples of that.
With a golden opportunity Monday afternoon at TD Garden, the Bruins had a chance to pick up two easy points against an Islanders squad that’s dead last in the East. Instead, they were left with an embarrassing 4-0 loss.
“Maybe we took them a little lightly, but we just weren’t ready to play,” a displeased Marchand said after Monday’s loss.
On Wednesday, against another one of the East’s worst, the Bruins had a chance to erase the feeling from Monday. After jumping out to a 4-1 lead in Detroit after an excellent first period, it appeared the Bruins were on track to do just that. Instead, an ugly collapse led to a disappointing 6-5 shootout loss that turns the heat on Julien’s seat up, maybe the hottest it’s ever been.
Bottom line is the Bruins are not getting ready for hockey games and taking lesser opponents lightly. Is that on the leaders in the Bruins’ dressing room? Maybe. But it’s Julien’s job to do something about it.
It’s no secret Bruins’ owner Jeremy Jacobs is not a happy camper. Despite what ticket sales tell you, the Garden is not selling out night in and night out. Customers are not happy and Jacobs is calling for changes.
Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are not going anywhere. They haven’t been in their roles long enough for their dominoes to fall, but they know just like Julien’s has been, their seats are warming up.
Unfortunately, that leaves Julien as the scapegoat.
Yes, Julien has been in this position before. 2011 against Montreal, 2013 against Toronto and a handful of times since. But the Bruins always stepped up, strung some wins together and put the fire hose to the flame that is the head coach hot seat. After a few close calls, it appears that time has finally run out on Julien’s tenure in Boston.
Next up for the Bruins are back-to-back dates with the last two Stanley Cup Champions in the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s hard to see things remaining unchanged when the puck drops Friday night at TD Garden.