Claude Julien's first priority is to win. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Ryan Spooner benching a reminder Bruins' can't embrace potential as much as they've said

DJ Bean
November 18, 2015 - 9:52 am

The Bruins have long said that this season is about potential. Yet it seems that they feel their best chance of realistically winning games is to bank on more sure things than embracing that potential. They're not necessarily wrong in thinking that; they just might need to cool it on that P-word for a while. When Claude Julien benched Ryan Spooner in the third period of Tuesday'€™s loss to the Sharks, the worst part of it was that the change didn'€™t allow the Bruins to complete their comeback. The second-worst part of it is that it loaned more evidence to the historically incorrect Claude Hates The Kids argument. If the Bruins had their act together on the back end and could kill penalties, do you really think Julien would have benched Spooner for his bad second period Tuesday? Of course not. Yet this season has seen him limit players like Spooner and David Pastrnak when they've struggled because the Bruins, for all the gushy stuff they've said about their young players, can't actually give them the keys because the Bruins aren't good enough to absorb their mistakes. Asked after the game why he gave Spooner no even-strength time in the final period, Julien snapped back at the reporter, asking if he had noticed that Joonas Kemppainen had earned the ice time inherited by Spooner'€™s benching. On Wednesday, Julien was more willing to elaborate on his decision to limit Spooner'€™s third-period shifts to just the power play and the final minute with an extra attacker. "I thought Spoons, 5-on-4 power play, he'€™s really good, he'€™s got space, but at the same time, we were playing a heavy game and there wasn'€™t much going on [with him] 5-on-5. Anyone who knows the game, I shouldn'€™t have to explain that," Julien said. "He wasn'€™t having his best outing, so I have to make changes to try and help us win a hockey game. This is not about picking on somebody, it'€™s about a coach trying to do the right things to help us win a hockey game. He went back out there on the power play because he'€™s a good power play guy. [I was] certainly not punishing him for the sake of punishing him." Asked how the team feels Spooner'€™s development is coming along, Julien said the team is continuing to work with him, but that they reserve the right to sit him if they feel it'€™s in their best interests. "It'€™s not just defensively, it'€™s offensively as well, 5-on-5. You'€™ve got to be able to try and produce. You know what? If we'€™re going to have those guys here and we'€™re going to work with him, we have to work with him but it doesn'€™t mean we have to keep playing him to the detriment of the hockey club," Julien said. "That'€™s where I'€™m trying to balance as a coach, giving the ice time that he deserves and that he gets. He gets a fresh start most of the time every game. Listen, we'€™re still working with this guy, but I have to coach. "No. 1, the fans want to see us win. I think our ownership and upper-management want to see us win. That'€™s part of my job. If they tell me by sitting him out I'€™m [hurting] our chances of winning, then we have an issue that we have to talk about, but that'€™s not the case. It'€™s just me coaching." Julien has a point, but with the Bruins in no-man'€™s land it'€™s tougher to tell when it'€™s worth sitting a young player or working through the speed bumps. As long as the team feels it'€™s pushing for a playoff spot (and at 8-8-1, that should be the mindset), Julien should coach his butt off to try to manufacture wins. If they fall out of contention, it will be a different story. At some point this season, the Bruins will have to pick a lane. Right now, they're still trying to win, which means the lower-risk, lower-reward options may win out over the magical potential potential of which they've often spoke.