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.

The Bruins have fired Claude Julien. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

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.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Claude Julien's time behind the Bruins bench is over.</p>
<div class=

Claude Julien is out after nearly 10 seasons as Bruins coach. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)A Friday news dump is one thing. A Patriots parade news dump is quite another.

#NHLBruins relieve Claude Julien of coaching duties:

— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 7, 2017

Many were wondering not if, but when. Not they know.

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

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

Many were wondering not if, but when. Now they know.

The Bruins finally made the move so may have been anticipating, firing coach Claude Julien Tuesday morning. They will be replacing Julien on an interim basis with assistant coach Bruce Cassidy.

Julien, who was in his 10th season with the Bruins, compiled a record of 419-246-96 in Boston, with the B’s making the playoffs in seven of his previous nine seasons. He led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

This will be Cassidy’s second stint as an NHL head coach, having served in the same capacity with the Washington Capitals from 2002-04.

The Bruins are currently on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, sitting in the ninth spot with a record of 26-23-6.


Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
The Bruins are rooting for the Patriots tonight. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are rooting for the Patriots tonight. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are sports fans, too.

And decked out in Patriots gear delivered to the team on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena, it’s no surprise who the Patriots are pulling for tonight in Super Bowl LI between the Pats and Falcons.

It was in 2015 that Milan Lucic picked the Bruins to beat the Seahawks 27-24 (the final score was 28-24 in favor of the Patriots), so I had to ask this new group of Bruins who they picked and the final score.

Matt Beleskey: Patriots 35, Falcons 27. 

An Ontario native (and a noted Blue Jays fan), Beleskey is all in on Boston, and the Patriots are included in that. The hard-hitting winger is confidently picking the Patriots, and expects Julian Edelman to score the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Jimmy Hayes: Patriots 35, Falcons 21. 

The Dorchester native is obviously a Patriots fan, and when asked about who he’s picking for this game, he without hesitation said, “Oh, the Patriots.” When asked for a score, Hayes wanted to try and line it up with his squares, so he’s taking the Patriots by 14 in a 35-to-21 final.

Tim Schaller: Patriots 31, Falcons 24. 

A New Hampshire native, Schaller is amped for this game and knows the importance of that fifth Super Bowl title. “If they win this one, it’s almost like I’d be content with them not winning it again,” Schaller said. But as a New Englander he knows these games are never blowouts, even if you expect them, and he expects another close one.

Zane McIntyre: Patriots 28, Falcons 24. 

A Vikings fan growing up (though he admits it’s been hard to get to games because the hockey schedule and football schedule collide), McIntyre expects a game. “The defenses will be flying around, it’ll be a good one,” McIntyre said. “Barnburner.”

Joe Morrow: Patriots 34, Falcons 24. 

A fantasy football champion this season, Morrow knows what he’s talking about when it comes to football. Well, in a way. He initially picked the Patriots by 10, but when pressed for a score he said, “34 to 24 — is that possible?” Oh yes, very possible.

Brandon Carlo: Patriots win by three.

Wearing a Patriots shirt after practice on Friday, I had to ask the Colorado native the obvious question: Aren’t you a Broncos fan? The 20-year-old admitted that he did like the Broncos when he lived back home, but that he wants to root for the Boston teams now that he’s here. In awe of what Tom Brady is doing at his age, Carlo didn’t have a score, but he did like the Pats by three.

Frank Vatrano: Patriots win by 12.  

The East Longmeadow native didn’t have a score, but he’s taking the Pats by 12.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are not content with any moral victories from Saturday's loss to the Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are not content with any moral victories from Saturday’s loss to the Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

If this loss happened to the Bruins a month ago, it stings, but they learn from it and move forward. If this loss happens against a team from the Western Conference tomorrow, they likely do the same.

But to lose this game, a 6-5 loss on TD Garden ice, to these Maple Leafs, who are now just one point behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic and with five games in hand, well that’s just plain rotten.

Entering action with a 37 percent chance of making the playoffs, and with a chance for that figure to bump up another seven percent with a win, the Bruins instead lost, and saw their playoff hopes dip over nine percent, down to 27.8 percent. The Bruins, who have not had a winning streak longer than three games this season, were already up against the percentages when it came to their playoff aspirations, are now in a situation where they’ll likely have to nab 65 percent of the remaining 54 points on their schedule.

Three-goal comeback from 4-1 down? Valiant effort, sure, but who cares, you still lost.

There are no moral victories left for this team.

It’s just the truth of this team’s situation.

Already entrenched in must-win territory in February, the Bruins lost perhaps the biggest game of the month’s rest-heavy slate.

“Yup,” Bruins forward Ryan Spooner said when asked if they’re beyond taking the positives of a loss. “I’d say 27 games left in the year, that team is now a point behind us with five games in hand. You’ve got to win games. It doesn’t matter if we had 40 shots and they had, I don’t know, I guess 27. It doesn’t really matter. We just need to win right now and we didn’t.”

The Bruins finished the loss with 41 shots on goal (the Bruins attempted 79 shots in total, including 19 misses), but were doomed by costly own-zone mistakes at key moments, twice giving up go-ahead goals with less than five minutes in the third period. The loss, by the way, gives the Bruins eight losses in games where they’ve put at least 40 shots on net this season.

“We fought back, so you like those kinds of things, but at the end of the night, it’s about winning hockey games,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “And I have to say that tonight, we found a way to lose. So that’s the disappointing part.”

It’s not just the loss, but the inevitable situation that this really puts the Bruins in. Unless the Leafs lose all of their remaining games in hand, they will at some point pass the Bruins at this rate, and leave the Black and Gold on the outside looking in.

“We knew how important those two points in that game were and it’s very disappointing and frustrating at the same time, you know, you can;t give up six goals if you want to win any hockey game,” Patrice Bergeron, who scored the game-tying goal with 2:54 left in the third, said. “The last thing you want to do is claw your way back all the time and, you know, down by three goals, it’s obviously if you prevent that it makes it a lot easier on us and then we have a much better chance to come out with the win.”

“They’re a point behind us now,” a frustrated Spooner said of the Leafs. “We kind of talked about it. If we had won, they would have been five points back with five games in hand, which isn’t terrible. It sucks but we’ve just got to move on.”

And do it as their window begins to slowly close.


Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

It ran long at times, but Saturday night at TD Garden had it all.