Claude Julien released a statement Thursday morning. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien released a statement Thursday morning. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Fired Bruins head coach Claude Julien has broken his silence.

Relieved of his duties early Tuesday morning after a decade in town, Julien released a statement acknowledging the highs of his incredible run with the Black and Gold.

“I would like first and foremost to thank the Bruins Organisation for allowing my family and I the privilege of spending 10 unforgettable years in Boston,” Julien said. “We were proud to call this great city home for so long and will dearly miss it.

“To the players, past and present, medical and equipment staff, doctors and communication staff, all of whom worked hard for the success of our club with a team-first mentality, I cannot thank you enough for your commitment through it all. From the game day security crew to the volunteers that I was fortunate enough to meet throughout the years, I thank you as well.”

Julien, who was the fourth NHL coach fired this season and the third from the Eastern Conference, was fired with a 419-246-94 record in almost 10 full seasons with the Bruins.

“I certainly cannot sign off without thanking the people here that made this time here so rewarding- the Boston Bruins fans. Your devotion, unmistakable passion, energy and support is what makes Boston the best sports city in the entire world!”

Julien’s biggest contribution in town undoubtedly came in 2011, when he helped guide the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in almost four decades, and brought the Bruins within two wins of another championship in 2013.

“In leaving this organisation, what I’m most happy about and most proud of is being part of the team that brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time in 39 years,” Julien said. “Sharing that journey and the Stanley Cup celebrations with our players, families, staff and our fans produced so many incredible memories that I will never forget. To all that were part of it and helped along the way, I want to express a heartfelt ‘thank you.'”

Julien was the longest tenured coach at the time of his firing and leaves as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

Here is the post-Claude Julien era mailbag …

Now that the Bruins finally pulled the trigger and fired Claude Julien after seemingly endless speculation, what can we expect from new head coach Bruce Cassidy? Richie, Everett, MA

Yes, our long, local nightmare has ended thanks to the Bs finally turfing the winningest coach in their history. The constant ‘will they or won’t they?’ surrounding the team has been essentially lanced so the distraction of their coach should cease being a problem.

As for interim coach Cassidy, it’s been about a decade-and-a-half since he coached the Washington Capitals for a season-plus and the NHL has changed drastically in that time. He did win at least 40 games in five of his six years as head coach of the Providence Bruins and is pretty familiar with many of the younger Bruins.

I’d expect him to goose the offense with a more up-tempo style of play that will rely on the youth more than Claude did. Every player will get a clean slate so we’ll likely see a few guys in new roles as well. Whether he can be successful enough to get this roster to the post-season is the million dollar question.

The Bruins are certainly hoping for the significant bump in play that Doug Weight brought to Long Island. But if they don’t like what see, the Bruins aren’t committed to Cassidy beyond this season right now. Of course, if he does not return for the ’17-’18 season that would be indicative of another front office problem but that’s another issue for another day.

The Bruins took a pretty bad PR hit over the last few days. But are they really “cowards”? Paul, Roslindale, MA

A rough year for the Bruins got even bumpier due to the way they handled the dismissal of Claude. Fans and social media were pissed off that the team had the “audacity” to can the coach on the same day as the duckboat parade for the World Champion Patriots (the horror!).

But cowards? That’s a bit of a stretch. The B’s apparently decided to fire him after Saturday’s ugly loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But doing it on Sunday would’ve certainly stolen some of the Patriots’ Super Bowl thunder and they likely deferred out of professional courtesy. When the Pats completed their miraculous comeback, it became a ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation for their hockey compatriots.

Rather than announce the firing on Monday and dim some of the region’s glow in the wake of the huge Super Bowl win, the Bs opted to wait for yesterday and violate the sanctity of a celebratory parade. And, boy, did they get roasted for it. But the B’s had already deferred to the Pats for two days and decided to move on with their franchise so their new coach could get a couple of practices in before his first game.

Where the Bruins do deserve criticism is for their horrible choice to hold the press conference at the exact same time as the parade. This was just a bad look. By having the presser at 11:45 a.m. while millions clogged the Back Bay a couple miles away, the team ensured that local stations would not be able to do live shots and that outlets couldn’t send additional reporters. That was weak and reeked of the early ‘90s Bruins when Harry Sinden would try to bury stories in yesterday’s trash. Just make your decision, face the music, then move on.

Blog Author: 
Rear Admiral
Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has a long history with interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Ryan Spooner has a history with interim B’s coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

It took all of five minutes before Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy talked about his familiarity with Ryan Spooner during Tuesday’s impromptu introductory press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

Cassidy, the replacement for head coach Claude Julien, who was relieved of his duties after 10 years on the job, talked about his ability to hopefully get a player like Spooner going. That would be a win for not only the Black and Gold, but the embattled Spooner as well.

He would never say it directly, and even though he still won’t, but Spooner,who has just eight goals and 27 points in 54 games this season, never seemed all that comfortable under Julien and vice versa. Consider this: Even after Spooner’s best NHL season, a 2015-16 campaign in which he scored 13 goals and totaled 49 points in 80 games while playing hurt for most of the second half, Spooner lost out on his spot as the club’s third-line center this season without much of a chance at keeping it.

It’s not like he lost out on the spot to big fish free agent pickup David Backes, who has played on the right side of the B’s second line this season, either. Julien put Austin Czarnik, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore in that spot before he put Spooner back there.

“Last season as a centerman I had some ups and downs, but as a whole I think it was a pretty good season for me,” Spooner said.

 

It never made a ton of sense to me, and you always got the feeling that it made even less sense to Spooner, who was pigeonholed into a top-six winger role (something he never necessarily crushed) from the start of training camp, and then benched or demoted down to the fourth line when things didn’t work out. And when that happened, Spooner would often fall back to a familiar refrain where he called the situation out for being what it is, and that he could only hope to improve to the coach’s satisfaction.

“I think at the end of the day [Julien] wanted me to be the best player I can be, and that’s fine,” Spooner said.

But under Cassidy, it’s been two practices at center in as many days for the 25-year-old Spooner.

The first came with Matt Beleskey and David Backes as his wingers, and the other with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes. Each proposed line has it’s strengths and weaknesses (the first edition is a little heavy-footed but can win battles while the second one is a lot of offense but very little defensive presence), but the focus of each line was getting No. 51 back into a situation where he could succeed, because that simply hasn’t happened through the first 54 games of this current season. It was necessary, too.

“I’ll speak to this year. I think moving from center to the wing, I don’t know if he’s bought into it if that’s the right term or is embracing that role, only he can answer that. But that’s part of it,” Cassidy, Spooner’s coach in Providence for four different seasons, said of Spooner’s time on the wing. “Wherever you play on the ice, this is a difficult league, especially as a young guy. You have to embrace the role you’re put in to have a level of success and he did at times. I thought he was good at times on the wing.”

There were moments where it seemed to work, but it never materialized into long stretches of success, especially not on a second line with David Krejci and Backes that really seemed stuck in the mud through the neutral zone at times.

“You just have to put the work in on the walls, and the willingness to go there and embrace that part of the job. Every position has a kind of a lousy part of the job to it, right? I mean defensemen going back with their face up against the glass, does anybody enjoy that? No. Wingers fighting for pucks on the boards, it’s not great, but you gotta do it,” Cassidy said of the work that comes with being a winger versus a center. “There’s time he needs to go to the net. I think those are the areas that the staff has tried to encourage him to do more of when he doesn’t have the puck because he’s a guy that’s used to being a centerman who makes plays with the pucks and has the puck in the neutral zone and that’s where it changes as a winger.”

At 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, Spooner is not your prototypical winger, especially not for what’s considered the norm to Krejci’s left (be it Beleskey or Milan Lucic before that), and that’s been one of the biggest problems for Spooner as a winger, especially under Julien, who wanted basically everybody on his roster to play a heavy, three-zone game.

“I think at heart, and he’d have to answer that, but I think he’d prefer to be a centerman,” Cassidy said of Spooner. “So we either have to do a better job selling him the value of being a winger or he goes back to the middle and see if we can get the best.”

Spooner’s coach during his formative pro years, in which he morphed from a one-dimensional scorer to an accountable skill player that thrived under the situations Cassidy put him in as a go-to scoring option, the Ottawa native likes this new style.

“The guys liked him,” Spooner said of Cassidy. “He likes to play with pace, and he’s more of an offensive coach.”

Two things that benefit Spooner. Especially if it’s in the middle of the ice and with the puck distributed off his stick.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruce Cassidy is an NHL head coach for the first time since 2003. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)Bruce Cassidy, or Butch as he’s known to his players, isn’t one to give his players life lessons.



Zdeno Chara has picked one hell of a two-day stretch to miss.

Absent from Tuesday’s practice because he was under the weather, Chara was once again missing from Wednesday’s practice, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Sharks remains up in the air.

Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has picked one hell of a two-day stretch to miss.

Absent from Tuesday’s practice because he was under the weather, Chara was once again missing from Wednesday’s practice, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Sharks remains up in the air.

“Still under the weather,” interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Chara. “I don’t want to say anything on [Chara missing Thursday’s game] because he’s a proud guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked through that door tomorrow ready to play, but I haven’t spoken to Z.”

Normally this would not be a big deal, but this means that Chara, the team’s captain since 2006, has been absent for both practices led by Cassidy since the team fired Claude Julien early Tuesday morning.

Cassidy, who did run the defensive group as an assistant coach this year on Julien’s staff, obviously has familiarity with Chara, so it would not be a huge issue for Chara to just jump right into action. And the systems, at least according to those skating them, are relatively similar, so this wouldn’t be as if Chara is jumping into the mix without having any sort of prior knowledge as to what the new coach expects out of his team.

If he’s out of action tomorrow night, the Bruins will rely on a true six-defender unit, which is something they have found some success with this season, as the Black and Gold are 3-2-1 with Chara out of action this season.

The 39-year-old Chara has four goals and 15 points in 49 games this year and leads the Bruins with 23:07 of time on ice per night.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Khudobin is back with the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin is back with the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It didn’t take all that long for Anton Khudobin to lose the trust of head coach Claude Julien. It was the number one reason Khudobin was waived and subsequently banished to the AHL, although Khudobin’s one win and .885 save percentage in eight games didn’t help.

But now, with Butch Cassidy the new boss behind the B’s bench with Julien relieved of his duties, it appears as if Khudobin will get another chance at claiming the backup spot as his own for the stretch run.

Summoned from the P-Bruins early this morning, and with Zane McIntyre returned the club in a directly corresponding move, Khudobin was on the ice for today’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is expected to be available (if needed) against the Sharks tomorrow.

The 30-year-old Khudobin has been just OK at the AHL level this season, but has found results, with seven wins in spite of an .896 save percentage in 11 games. Khudobin did start last night’s P-Bruins game against the Albany Devils, and stopped 19-of-20 shots in a 4-1 win.

The Bruins are going to battle for their playoff lives over the next 27 games left on the schedule, and with starter Tuukka Rask already having played 44 games (fourth-most in the NHL) and logged 2,495:19 minutes of time on ice (sixth-most in the NHL), the Bruins will need Khudobin to regain his form as a viable option in net over this next little stretch, or at least show that his struggles remain a factor and allow the team to look outside the organization for a patchwork fix of sorts.

The B’s begin another three games in four nights stretch Thursday against the Sharks, and finish it off with a weekend back-to-back against the Canucks and Canadiens. All three games will be played at TD Garden.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Don Sweeney held court with the media for 26 minutes after Claude Julien's firing. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)In a day of snowy celebration, the Bruins traded their shovels in for brooms on Tuesday morning. 



Brad Marchand said rumors of Julien's firing became a distraction. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Marchand said rumors of Julien’s firing became a distraction. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have tuned the outside media noise out before and they’ll have to, at some point in the very near future, do it again. But they’re human, too, and sometimes even the noise gets too loud to ignore.

But rarely was it as obvious a weight as it was on this Bruins team.

Prior to his Tuesday morning firing, rumors swirled about Claude Julien’s future again and again and again. It even hit the point where Julien himself decided to address the rumors after a seemingly easygoing Saturday practice last month. He said he wasn’t quitting and that he was willing to work through the hard times to make it work.

Julien had the support of his two biggest voices in the locker room, too, as both alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and team captain Zdeno Chara went to bat for him that day. They both said Julien was still their coach, that they believed in the coach and that the messages conveyed and the lessons taught to the club were resonating.

And Claude and the team’s best players did that while the front office — namely general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely — stayed silent and remained the Carmen Sandiego of NHL GMs and presidents.

That without question allowed his uncertain future to become a distraction long before the Bruins cut the cord with Julien.

“For sure,” an emotional Brad Marchand said when asked if the rumors became a distraction for the team. “Any time you have that noise it can bring unwanted pressure. And we were kind of trying to shut that down so we just had to worry about playing.”

The Bruins were playing for their coach on a night-to-night basis, and while that’s almost always the case in the NHL, but during the heights of the Fire Julien media frenzies, the Bruins felt it. Their sticks were gripped so tight they’d explode before the puck even hit their sticks, and the defensive lapses were that of a team that knew their situation all too well. Look at their week of losses from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22 where the Bruins looked like an exasperated bunch that could not handle a lick of adversity as an example.

And confirmed as a distraction for a player that actually produced during said distractions, it makes Sweeney and Neely’s decision to stay quiet all the more bizarre. Had they said something (even if it was a lie just to slow everything down), it could have provided enough of a calming presence for the Black and Gold to simply focus on the tasks at hand and not let the bigger picture overwhelm the club as it clearly did for almost the entire month of January and perhaps even earlier.

So why fire Julien now versus three weeks ago when it was clear that your team wanted to know what the hell was going on with the message delivered and how long the person delivering it was going to be there? Why make the call when the slumps and struggles have set you up in a position where you have to win at a .750 percentage clip to salvage your bleak playoff hopes?

“Not an easy decision in any way, shape, or form,” Sweeney said of the decision and overall back-and-forth that came with the decision to fire Julien. “People would say, well why can’t you just ride out the season. Or I was asked, why can’t you just ride out the season. I think the timing became an opportunity for us to evaluate going down the stretch, where these players are and how many of them can fit into what we want to do going forward and the decisions that we have to make accordingly. How players react to a different voice, and a direction change. I’m looking for alignment from top to bottom as to what our expectations are, from the players that have won to the players that are coming in, and I want to be in consult with the next coach of the Boston Bruins, while I am evaluating the current staff. I’ll have a list of candidates that will fall in line with what I am trying to do.”

That answer? Well, let’s be real: It stinks. Whether Sweeney likes it or not, this is part of his job. He needs to develop a relationship with the media and use it to not only his own advantage but the team’s advantage as well. As mentioned before, this was something that Peter Chiarelli was really great at (remember when Chiarelli would crush rumors like a day into their development?), and something that worked to his team’s favor. Sweeney’s silence — oh, and today was his first media availability since media day before the season started, by the way — was deafening and it trickled down to the locker room.

And now, it might just be too late to fix things before a third straight postseason miss.

“It’s something you never want to see happen, especially with Claude, who is an incredible coach and person, and I think we all learned a tremendous amount from him,” Marchand said. “It’s tough being in that situation where we know it’s on us. We know we didn’t perform and we didn’t play the way we should and that’s why he’s not here anymore. Because we didn’t do our jobs.”

But don’t worry, Brad, neither did the GM. Not when it actually mattered, anyhow.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins have had several opportunities to fire coach Claude Julien this year. There were several times where the team probably should have ended their night or began their morning with the severing of the ties between themselves and their coach of a decade.