The Bruins have fired Claude Julien. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
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.
But Tuesday morning, just hours away from a parade to celebrate Boston’s 10th championship since 2002, this one after another massive Patriots Super Bowl comeback, was not the time. Unless you’re the Bruins, of course, who specialize in this sort of piss-poor timing.
“I didn’t pick this day to take away from the great accomplishment of the New England Patriots,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said to begin his press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.
(No, of course not, but it sure helped you guys get this one out there.)
Make no mistake about it, this was a move that anybody and everybody knew was coming.
Firing Julien wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when.
But the Bruins’ when showed more cowardice than anything else.
There was zero doubt that Julien was a marked man once Sweeney decided to bring Bruce (Butch) Cassidy, the coach of the P-Bruins during Sweeney’s run as the B’s assistant GM (one of Sweeney’s biggest duties in that role was managing the day-to-day operations of their AHL club), into the mix as an NHL assistant coach. Like Sweeney was team president Cam Neely’s guy to begin the changes that Neely wanted in his front office, Cassidy was Sweeney’s guy to kickstart changes behind the bench.
Then when Julien was forced to go to bat for his own job and explain himself to the media while Sweeney and Neely — you know, the two people actually in charge of Julien’s future and the ones that could put the media firestorm out with just a few comments — stayed silent only, the idea that Julien was a goner was by all means confirmed. I mean, why back the guy and corner yourself into a situation where you’re going to have to lie through your teeth or go back on what you said a few weeks or months later?
Why say anything? Why do anything?
After all, this was your scapegoat all the way.
You didn’t fire this coach last year, and then you sat on your hands while the team hemorrhaged points left and right until almost the 60th game of the season, not because you believed in the coach (because that’s somebody you could have said but didn’t when given ample opportunities — and don’t think for a second that the Bruins media corps have not been requesting to hear from either front office head), but because it would have put more blame on you when that next guy went through the same struggles.
It was the perfect divvying of a blame pie that this front office never wants to eat.
When the Bruins came up short in 2015, it was then-GM Peter Chiarelli’s fault. He paid the price and took the fall. When they repeated the feat in 2016 and found a way to take their fate out of the hands like a week after being close to a total lock for the playoffs, it was the leftovers of the Chiarelli era of incompetent drafting and bad trades haunting the team for one final collapse. Nothing happened to the staff or front office, and a roster overhaul with an injection of more heart than skill became the go-to fix. And now, when this team fails to make the postseason on the backs of no-showing, aging and overpaid stars and fourth-line muckers, it will somehow become Julien’s fault and this front office will be given another year to ‘fix’ things in their image.
It’s too late to fix what’s broken with this group, too. The B’s loss to the Maple Leafs last Saturday likely sealed their fate as a playoff miss for a third year in a row, and it’s hard to imagine that changing with Cassidy inheriting this same roster. Whether or not there’s a long-term fix, either, remains to be seen, especially with this group in change.
But today, with the timing of this move, the only guarantee is that this will further irritate an already disgruntled fanbase.
To can your franchise’s all-time winningest coach in such a callous way on a day of city-wide celebration, and with the idea that a million Boston sports fans will be in the streets and with their minds elsewhere is the best way to avoid a news cycle entirely, is low. Even for this embattled franchise whose E-Z Pass has paid a near yearly toll on the low roads towards irrelevancy.
And just another turn closer towards their apparent wish to be out of the news cycle entirely.