The painful reality has set in. The Bruins will not be participating in the NHL playoffs this season. The B’s went 8-8-3 in 19 games during March and April. That includes finishing the last 12 games 3-8-1. If it was not for last year’s collapse by the Bruins we would be shocked. But we’ve seen this happen before.
Bottom line, a lot went wrong all year. Starting with losing the first 3 games of the season badly, and having that set the tone for a losing record at home. Back in October even before that happened most people felt this team wasn’t going to make the playoffs. And even for those of us who did think they would get in, no one could imagine they would miss the playoffs with another epic late season collapse. To be in first in the Atlantic, as well as up 10 points on Philadelphia at one point, makes it really disappointing rather just being a bad team from start to finish. They should have closed the deal. And no one within the Bruins organization is free from blame.
So for Part 1 of Bostonpucks.com’s Season Review we will look at the coaching staff.
Claude Julien and the coaching staff
Claude Julien is a very good hockey coach and he has had the greatest run any coach has ever had in the entire history of the Boston Bruins organization. I am not going to say that I think Claude Julien should be fired, because I would be fine either way. There is certainly a good chance that if Julien is fired his replacement will not be as good of a coach as he was.
You have to wonder if the message has gotten stale in that locker room. Julien’s tried and true defensive system was not nearly as effective this year. Yes he didn’t have the personnel he’s had in years past but when fans constantly heard “we just weren’t ready to go” or “we didn’t compete like we should” all year, you have to wonder about the man with the game plan. Regardless of talent, maybe Claude can’t get that message through to a team that’s getting younger.
For me it is all about fit. I am not sure Claude is a good fit for this Bruins team anymore. The Bruins that start the 2016-2017 season will more than likely be younger than this season’s team. The Bruins cannot afford to have young players to come along and go through a lot of what happened this year. They cannot have more Colin Miller and Frank Vatrano roller coasters.
Miller made the team out of camp and looked like just what the Bruins needed. He had speed, a heavy shot, and a little bit of a physical edge. He was putting points at a good clip too. But, he made a few mistakes like every young player does and Claude stapled him to the bench, or made him a healthy scratch. Miller eventually lost his confidence and was send down to the AHL. Yet some of it was a numbers game as well. Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow could not be sent down to the AHL without clearing waivers so it made it an easy choice to bury Miller, but it never solved the on ice issues.
With Vatrano, he was called up to the big club after starting his professional career on fire in Providence. Once in the NHL he continued to score but did tail off and seemed to have lost his confidence with the limited playing time he was receiving. Vatrano eventually got sent back down to the AHL to regain his confidence and he continued to dominate that level.
This really is my one complaint with Claude Julien. He does not do a good job with incorporating younger players into the game plan, and he is quick to bench them when they make a mistake. Young players seem to have a shorter leash than the veteran players with similar on ice issues. And this year some of that can fall on management too.
In a normal situation with proven depth on offense and defense you can afford to send guys like 72 and 48 down who have real good long term potential but have hit some pot holes along the way. The problem with this years roster however was there wasn’t that deep, strong team. Sending Miller or Vatrano down to Providence to allow Hayes, Rinaldo, Randell, Trotman, Morrow, or whoever play didn’t make the team better. Management thought their personnel was
playoff bound better than what they truly were, so better, young prospects paid the price for it rather than stick with the club and get the full experience.
Like I said above, the Bruins cannot afford to allow that to happen again.
Not to mention some of the baffling coaching decisions that were made down the stretch. Like not having Brad Marchand, who is your leading goal scorer, shoot in the shootout of a must win game last Tuesday against Carolina. He left his best goal scoring asset on the bench at a time he needed a point. If the Bruins win that shootout and get the full 2 points we are not talking about them missing the playoffs.
If the Bruins decide to fire Claude I hope they think outside the box for the next coach. I do not want another retread NHL coach like Marc Crawford. Get someone that has some new ideas, or fresh ideas. I do not like the idea of Mike Milbury, but someone who is rumored is Ted Donato, which I would not mind. He has played in the NHL. He has had success coaching his young players at Harvard. What about a guy like David Quinn from Boston University? He has done an excellent job at BU. Just look at what the Flyers have done under their first time NHL coach Dave Hakstol. I would also be fine if they kept Claude for another year. If that is the case, he will need the change his ways a little more to be the best fit for the Bruins.