Claude Julien: 5 Years Without a Firing for the Boston Bruins Head Coach
The last time it was Monday, April 2, Julien was the coach of a regular-season division champion and abruptly out of a job. With three games remaining in the 2006-07 regular season, New Jersey Devils' general manager Lou Lamoriello discharged his first-year skipper, a 46-24-9 record notwithstanding.
Five years later, on this Monday, April 2, Julien is again behind the bench of a team that has just cemented a division title with three games left to tune up for the playoffs.
All signs point to him sticking around this time. After all, he and 17 returning players have a Stanley Cup to defend.
The contrary fortunes of the Devils and Bruins in the five years since Julien’s last stroll to the unemployment line are practically comical. New England fans might even consider it poetic justice given that New Jersey’s last title came in 2003 via the guidance of the late Pat Burns, whose previous employer was none other than an impatient Boston front office.
Granted, Lamoriello’s Hall of Fame-worthy run as the Devils’ multifold manager speaks for itself. But the fact is that ever since he filled in the Julien vacancy, he unexpectedly created and took his team to the second round of the 2007 playoffs, but New Jersey has not had a single ice shaving of spring success.
In the wake of letting Julien go, Lamoriello went on the record with CBC Sports as saying: “I did not feel that we were going in the right direction, both mentally and hockey(-wise), going into the playoffs, for a variety of reasons…The way we put ourselves in this organization, you have to look at the big picture.”
Yet, after three straight first-round exits—all of which happened in defiance of home-ice advantage—last year’s Devils missed the dance altogether for the first time since 1996 and only the third time in Lamoriello’s 25-year tenure. This year, with the sixth seed virtually locked in, they will vie to avoid tying their franchise record of six years without a playoff series victory.
All the while, Julien has done nothing but elevate the playoff status of the Bruins, whom he ironically victimized with a 3-1 victory the day before his dismissal from New Jersey.
In 2007-08, Julien’s Bruins put in the franchise’s first playoff appearance in four years and pushed the heavily favored Montreal Canadiens to seven games. The following year, with the seedings reversed, and Boston swept the Habs and won its first playoff series since Burns’ second year with the team in 1999.
In 2010, vinegary finish aside, the Bruins advanced to the second round in consecutive years for the first time since 1992. Then they rebounded and followed up with a run to their first championship in 39 years.
Julien was largely unproven in the “second season” during his brief runs with Montreal and New Jersey. But overall, under his direction, the Bruins have gone 6-3 in terms of series and 33-23 in playoff games.
It’s little wonder that only Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, Detroit's Mike Babock, Nashville’s Barry Trotz and Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault have stayed at their current posts longer than Julien. And of those four, only Babcock shares the distinction of placing a Stanley Cup on his resume.
While Julien has been a mainstay in Boston, 15 other NHL franchises have each made more than one coaching change and 15 different men have coached multiple teams. Paul Maurice and Ron Wilson have both been fired twice since Julien finished his first season with the Bruins.
As it happens, New Jersey has had the quintessential revolving door since 2007. Julien’s line of successors with the Devils has included Brent Sutter, Jacques Lemaire, John MacLean and Peter DeBoer.
Oh, and after going 4-4-4 against his old club between 2007-08 and 2009-10, Julien has gone 7-1-0 over the last two years against New Jersey. That includes a clean four-game sweep of this year's season series with a cumulative 18-8 scoring differential.
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