Claude Julien, one of the NHL’s most highly regarded coaches, was fired by the Boston Bruins after weeks of rumors regarding his job status.
Assistant coach Bruce Cassidy takes over as interim head coach, the team announced.
It’s been a struggle of a season for the Bruins, who are 26-23-6 and one point out of a wild card. They racked up some pretty brutal losses last month, each one making this firing feel more inevitable. But none of this is a surprise, and very little if any should be considered Julien’s fault were supposed to be this year. A top-heavy talented team with a ton of holes, the Bruins are fighting for a playoff spot, which was exactly where they were supposed to be this year.
Julien’s had a lot of success in Boston. Fired midway through his 10th season, he was the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach, and has seven postseason appearances, a Stanley Cup, another Finals appearance, and a Presidents’ Trophy to show for his work. Julien will be out of work for exactly as long as he wants to be, and not a day longer; I can think of about 20 teams that should be calling his agent right now.
The Bruins’ downturn is the front office’s doing, not Julien’s. This is a transition period, as Boston restocks and gets younger and faster, but it’s far from seamless. Executives Don Sweeney and Cam Neely tanked a bunch of drafts while the Bruins were winning, and have tried to fill those holes with some questionable signings. The last few drafts have been better, and reinforcements are on the way, but they’re unlikely to be serious contributors for another couple of seasons. They’ll be desperately needed if Boston is to avoid true, enduring mediocrity: the Bruins have near 50 percent of their salary cap tied up in just five players (Rask, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Backes) and all five are signed for at least four more years. It’s possible Julien is getting out at tjust the right time.
Julien is the fourth NHL coach to be fired this season, joining Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues), Gerard Gallant (Florida Panthers) and Jack Capuano (New York Islanders).