Speaking of Peter Chiarelli, Bruins were smart to not fire Claude Julien

DJ Bean
December 14, 2015 - 10:49 am
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[caption id="attachment_49968" align="alignright" width="150"] Claude Julien[/caption] When Peter Chiarelli made his infamous declaration during a 2013 WEEI appearance that he would never fire Claude Julien, the then-Bruins general manager made himself and his coach a package deal. Upon Chiarelli's dismissal in April, the question on everyone'€™s minds was rather Julien would be attached to Chiarelli on the latter'€™s way out. "I didn'€™t know if I was going to be here either," Julien said Monday, stating the obvious. It'€™s not yet known whether the Bruins made the right call in firing Chiarelli. It is clear so far that they did make the right decision by retaining Julien. The Bruins enter Monday night'€™s game against Chiarelli'€™s Oilers as a playoff team with the second-best goal differential in the Atlantic Division. The B'€™s sit third in the Atlantic with 35 points in 28 games, though they'€™re surrounded in the standings by teams that have played more games than them (second-place Detroit has 38 points in 30 games; while Ottawa and Florida sit behind the Bruins having played 30 games each). The concern of whether Julien was fit to lead a changing team was understandable given that the Bruins had such a similar roster for such a long time, but that line of thinking didn'€™t take into consideration that Julien has been one of the best coaches in the NHL for several seasons. This season has probably required more coaching than Julien'€™s had to do, as he'€™s frequently been required to shuffle both his forward lines and defensive pairings. The Bruins are also employing a different breakout than seasons past and have strived for more of a four-man attack. If the organization and its fans wanted the Bruins to be a competitive team capable of making the playoffs this season, they should mostly be satisfied with the job Julien has done. He has not been afraid to bench younger players at times (Ryan Spooner) or make them healthy scratches (Joe Morrow, Colin Miller). He'€™s made such decisions in the interests of wining games rather than placing a high priority on player development. Given how he was able to bring along the likes of David Krejci and Brad Marchand over the years, he probably isn'€™t too worried about his methods. A worse performance from the team would suggest that Julien would be better off playing the kids as much as possible in an effort to develop them quickly. That won'€™t be an option for the Bruins as long as they'€™re in the playoff race. In that respect, it's also worth noting that new general manager Don Sweeney's offseason might not have been as bad as it looked. Defensively, this has not been a typical season for Julien and the Bruins. Given the team'€™s weakened back end, the Bruins sit 21st in the NHL in goals against per game after ranking in the top eight in every season since 2008-09. Julien has made tweaks recently to correct that, such as teaming Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid as the Bruins'€™ top pairing. The Bruins'€™ offense has returned to its usual spot near the top of the league (the B'€™s rank second with 3.21 goals per game), implementing several new players including Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Frank Vatrano and, to an extent, Brett Connolly. Should the Bruins'€™ defense and penalty kill continue to trend upward, finishing the season with the No. 2 seed in Atlantic would be a realistic goal. That'€™s a much more optimistic line of thinking than many had in the offseason. Given how much uncertainty surrounded the Bruins'€™ changing roster, radio hosts filled time by wondering whether Julien would make it to the New Year without losing his job. Such a topic wouldn't be able to fill a segment now. The season hasn'€™t reached the halfway point yet, but the Red Wings are the only one of the eight teams with new coaches this season to currently sit in playoff position. It'€™s probably too early to tell which of the Bruins'€™ decisions were correct, but keeping Julien was one of them.

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