Gregory Campbell was a top-six forward and it worked. It worked against a terrible team that has now lost five games in a row, but it worked. Let’s all acknowledge it.
To say Claude Julien doesn’t get enough credit is an understatement. Yes, he’s a very good defensive mind, but that’s never the argument when it comes to the Bruins’ bench boss. It’s his game and player management that always seems to be in question.
There are two sides to every argument, but if Julien can face scrutiny for the decisions he makes when it comes to players (shuffling lines, ice time, and, of course, his handling of Tyler Seguin), is anyone allowed to give him credit when he’s right?
He was right with his latest batch of moves. Julien shuffled the lines for Monday’s game against the Hurricanes, dropping Seguin to the third line and putting Campbell, a meat-and-potatoes center who has made a career out of work as a bottom-six center and penalty killer, on the second line with two of the team’s best goal-scorers in Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. [He also exiled Rich Peverley to the fourth line, but that didn’t get as much attention because it didn’t involve Seguin.]
Both moves worked. The Campbell line was Boston’s best on the night with two goals from Marchand and a goal from Andrew Ference assisted by Campbell, and the line of the speedy Peverley between Jordan Caron and Shawn Thornton – strong players but longshots to participate in Olympic speed skating any time soon – scored two goals of their own. It all led to the Bruins scoring a season-high six goals, which is only kind of impressive because although they did it without their best forward (Patrice Bergeron), they also did it against a Hurricanes team that was apparently unfamiliar with the concept of wraparounds.
But back to Julien. There are enough fictitious straw man arguments about this guy to fill a [fill in the blank: let’s use four-hour radio show as an example]. While he’s certainly typecast in certain ways (how did Jay Pandolfo stay in the lineup as long as he did?) and he is certainly guilty of questionable moves (why try Seguin, an inexperienced NHL center, in the middle if the leash was going to be so short that the plug was pulled after three-plus periods?), the same things get repeated about Julien, with only a fraction of them being true or making sense.
We’ll start with the notion that Julien only picks on the young guys and gives the veterans a free pass. It’s a nice and shiny argument, but the only scenario in which it’s true is if Peverley and Shawn Thornton have been lying about their ages. Julien has made both of them healthy scratches this season. Peverley is 30 and Thornton is 35, and both players are very popular in the Bruins’ dressing room.
A cousin of that theory is the argument that Julien lets Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton do whatever they want without consequence. Subscribers to this belief will claim that the two power forwards can put on as many disappearing acts as they want and Julien won’t touch them. Wrong again. A slumping Lucic was demoted to the third line on March 25. Yes, that demotion lasted less than a game, but do you know why it did? Because Lucic responded. Lucic scored in the second period of that game before being reuinited with David Krejci and Nathan Horton to start the third.
If you think Horton’s getting a free pass, that isn’t true either. Julien gave Horton 15:02 of ice time Monday, which was seventh among Bruins’ forwards and his lowest total in 13 games. Horton scored in the third period, too, and now has five goals in his last seven games.
Then there’s Seguin, who gets his slaps on the wrist just like everybody else and deals with them just like everybody else. Yet when Lucic isn’t playing well, people want him benched (or traded; talk radio callers had a blast with that this year). When Seguin isn’t playing well, Julien gets flack for doing his job and taking action.
Why wasn’t Seguin on that dreadful 6-on-4 Saturday night in Montreal when he leads the team in shots on goal? Because he had no shots on goal that night. It wasn’t Julien picking on him or "bullying the kid." It was Julien trying to get something done with guys he was confident could do it.
Bruins fans and a lot of the media are gaga for Seguin. Fine. They have plenty of reason to be – he’s the most talented player on the Bruins. He’s also a big boy and can handle one game on the third line (Monday's game was the first of the season in which Seguin didn't start on one of the top two lined). He’ll bounce back from some subpar performances just like the other guys who have slumped have. If he doesn’t and he stays on the third line, that’s not on Julien.
Claude Julien is a lot of things. He’s a defensive-minded coach who will never believe in having one workhorse goalie. He’s a right-handed shot. He’s not necessarily a believer in pronouncing “Lucic” or “Khudobin” correctly. He’s also a smart guy who knows what he’s doing. It's OK to point that out every now and then.