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Admiral’s Mailbag: What will life look like now that Claude Julien is gone?

02.09.17 at 9:12 am ET
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The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

Here is the post-Claude Julien era mailbag …

Now that the Bruins finally pulled the trigger and fired Claude Julien after seemingly endless speculation, what can we expect from new head coach Bruce Cassidy? Richie, Everett, MA

Yes, our long, local nightmare has ended thanks to the Bs finally turfing the winningest coach in their history. The constant ‘will they or won’t they?’ surrounding the team has been essentially lanced so the distraction of their coach should cease being a problem.

As for interim coach Cassidy, it’s been about a decade-and-a-half since he coached the Washington Capitals for a season-plus and the NHL has changed drastically in that time. He did win at least 40 games in five of his six years as head coach of the Providence Bruins and is pretty familiar with many of the younger Bruins.

I’d expect him to goose the offense with a more up-tempo style of play that will rely on the youth more than Claude did. Every player will get a clean slate so we’ll likely see a few guys in new roles as well. Whether he can be successful enough to get this roster to the post-season is the million dollar question.

The Bruins are certainly hoping for the significant bump in play that Doug Weight brought to Long Island. But if they don’t like what see, the Bruins aren’t committed to Cassidy beyond this season right now. Of course, if he does not return for the ’17-’18 season that would be indicative of another front office problem but that’s another issue for another day.

The Bruins took a pretty bad PR hit over the last few days. But are they really “cowards”? Paul, Roslindale, MA

A rough year for the Bruins got even bumpier due to the way they handled the dismissal of Claude. Fans and social media were pissed off that the team had the “audacity” to can the coach on the same day as the duckboat parade for the World Champion Patriots (the horror!).

But cowards? That’s a bit of a stretch. The B’s apparently decided to fire him after Saturday’s ugly loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But doing it on Sunday would’ve certainly stolen some of the Patriots’ Super Bowl thunder and they likely deferred out of professional courtesy. When the Pats completed their miraculous comeback, it became a ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation for their hockey compatriots.

Rather than announce the firing on Monday and dim some of the region’s glow in the wake of the huge Super Bowl win, the Bs opted to wait for yesterday and violate the sanctity of a celebratory parade. And, boy, did they get roasted for it. But the B’s had already deferred to the Pats for two days and decided to move on with their franchise so their new coach could get a couple of practices in before his first game.

Where the Bruins do deserve criticism is for their horrible choice to hold the press conference at the exact same time as the parade. This was just a bad look. By having the presser at 11:45 a.m. while millions clogged the Back Bay a couple miles away, the team ensured that local stations would not be able to do live shots and that outlets couldn’t send additional reporters. That was weak and reeked of the early ‘90s Bruins when Harry Sinden would try to bury stories in yesterday’s trash. Just make your decision, face the music, then move on.

Ryan Spooner could be Bruins player that benefits most from Bruce Cassidy hiring

02.08.17 at 6:53 pm ET
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Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has a long history with interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Ryan Spooner has a history with interim B’s coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

It took all of five minutes before Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy talked about his familiarity with Ryan Spooner during Tuesday’s impromptu introductory press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

Cassidy, the replacement for head coach Claude Julien, who was relieved of his duties after 10 years on the job, talked about his ability to hopefully get a player like Spooner going. That would be a win for not only the Black and Gold, but the embattled Spooner as well.

He would never say it directly, and even though he still won’t, but Spooner,who has just eight goals and 27 points in 54 games this season, never seemed all that comfortable under Julien and vice versa. Consider this: Even after Spooner’s best NHL season, a 2015-16 campaign in which he scored 13 goals and totaled 49 points in 80 games while playing hurt for most of the second half, Spooner lost out on his spot as the club’s third-line center this season without much of a chance at keeping it.

It’s not like he lost out on the spot to big fish free agent pickup David Backes, who has played on the right side of the B’s second line this season, either. Julien put Austin Czarnik, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore in that spot before he put Spooner back there.

“Last season as a centerman I had some ups and downs, but as a whole I think it was a pretty good season for me,” Spooner said.

 

It never made a ton of sense to me, and you always got the feeling that it made even less sense to Spooner, who was pigeonholed into a top-six winger role (something he never necessarily crushed) from the start of training camp, and then benched or demoted down to the fourth line when things didn’t work out. And when that happened, Spooner would often fall back to a familiar refrain where he called the situation out for being what it is, and that he could only hope to improve to the coach’s satisfaction.

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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (illness) misses practice again

02.08.17 at 2:31 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has picked one hell of a two-day stretch to miss.

Absent from Tuesday’s practice because he was under the weather, Chara was once again missing from Wednesday’s practice, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Sharks remains up in the air.

“Still under the weather,” interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Chara. “I don’t want to say anything on [Chara missing Thursday’s game] because he’s a proud guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked through that door tomorrow ready to play, but I haven’t spoken to Z.”

Normally this would not be a big deal, but this means that Chara, the team’s captain since 2006, has been absent for both practices led by Cassidy since the team fired Claude Julien early Tuesday morning.

Cassidy, who did run the defensive group as an assistant coach this year on Julien’s staff, obviously has familiarity with Chara, so it would not be a huge issue for Chara to just jump right into action. And the systems, at least according to those skating them, are relatively similar, so this wouldn’t be as if Chara is jumping into the mix without having any sort of prior knowledge as to what the new coach expects out of his team.

If he’s out of action tomorrow night, the Bruins will rely on a true six-defender unit, which is something they have found some success with this season, as the Black and Gold are 3-2-1 with Chara out of action this season.

The 39-year-old Chara has four goals and 15 points in 49 games this year and leads the Bruins with 23:07 of time on ice per night.

Bruins recall Anton Khudobin, assign Zane McIntyre to minors

02.08.17 at 11:43 am ET
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Anton Khudobin is back with the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin is back with the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It didn’t take all that long for Anton Khudobin to lose the trust of head coach Claude Julien. It was the number one reason Khudobin was waived and subsequently banished to the AHL, although Khudobin’s one win and .885 save percentage in eight games didn’t help.

But now, with Butch Cassidy the new boss behind the B’s bench with Julien relieved of his duties, it appears as if Khudobin will get another chance at claiming the backup spot as his own for the stretch run.

Summoned from the P-Bruins early this morning, and with Zane McIntyre returned the club in a directly corresponding move, Khudobin was on the ice for today’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is expected to be available (if needed) against the Sharks tomorrow.

The 30-year-old Khudobin has been just OK at the AHL level this season, but has found results, with seven wins in spite of an .896 save percentage in 11 games. Khudobin did start last night’s P-Bruins game against the Albany Devils, and stopped 19-of-20 shots in a 4-1 win.

The Bruins are going to battle for their playoff lives over the next 27 games left on the schedule, and with starter Tuukka Rask already having played 44 games (fourth-most in the NHL) and logged 2,495:19 minutes of time on ice (sixth-most in the NHL), the Bruins will need Khudobin to regain his form as a viable option in net over this next little stretch, or at least show that his struggles remain a factor and allow the team to look outside the organization for a patchwork fix of sorts.

The B’s begin another three games in four nights stretch Thursday against the Sharks, and finish it off with a weekend back-to-back against the Canucks and Canadiens. All three games will be played at TD Garden.

Brad Marchand admits obvious, says Claude Julien rumors became distraction for Bruins

02.07.17 at 5:11 pm ET
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Brad Marchand said rumors of Julien's firing became a distraction. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Marchand said rumors of Julien’s firing became a distraction. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have tuned the outside media noise out before and they’ll have to, at some point in the very near future, do it again. But they’re human, too, and sometimes even the noise gets too loud to ignore.

But rarely was it as obvious a weight as it was on this Bruins team.

Prior to his Tuesday morning firing, rumors swirled about Claude Julien’s future again and again and again. It even hit the point where Julien himself decided to address the rumors after a seemingly easygoing Saturday practice last month. He said he wasn’t quitting and that he was willing to work through the hard times to make it work.

Julien had the support of his two biggest voices in the locker room, too, as both alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and team captain Zdeno Chara went to bat for him that day. They both said Julien was still their coach, that they believed in the coach and that the messages conveyed and the lessons taught to the club were resonating.

And Claude and the team’s best players did that while the front office — namely general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely — stayed silent and remained the Carmen Sandiego of NHL GMs and presidents.

That without question allowed his uncertain future to become a distraction long before the Bruins cut the cord with Julien.

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Bruins travel new low road with timing of Claude Julien firing

02.07.17 at 1:32 pm ET
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The Bruins have fired Claude Julien. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have fired Claude Julien. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have had several opportunities to fire coach Claude Julien this year. There were several times where the team probably should have ended their night or began their morning with the severing of the ties between themselves and their coach of a decade.

But Tuesday morning, just hours away from a parade to celebrate Boston’s 10th championship since 2002, this one after another massive Patriots Super Bowl comeback, was not the time. Unless you’re the Bruins, of course, who specialize in this sort of piss-poor timing.

“I didn’t pick this day to take away from the great accomplishment of the New England Patriots,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said to begin his press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

(No, of course not, but it sure helped you guys get this one out there.)

Make no mistake about it, this was a move that anybody and everybody knew was coming.

Firing Julien wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when.

But the Bruins’ when showed more cowardice than anything else.

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Claude Julien era has come to an end: Bruins fire coach, replace him with Bruce Cassidy

02.07.17 at 8:25 am ET
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The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

Many were wondering not if, but when. Now they know.

The Bruins finally made the move so may have been anticipating, firing coach Claude Julien Tuesday morning. They will be replacing Julien on an interim basis with assistant coach Bruce Cassidy.

Julien, who was in his 10th season with the Bruins, compiled a record of 419-246-96 in Boston, with the B’s making the playoffs in seven of his previous nine seasons. He led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

This will be Cassidy’s second stint as an NHL head coach, having served in the same capacity with the Washington Capitals from 2002-04.

The Bruins are currently on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, sitting in the ninth spot with a record of 26-23-6.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SATURDAY SKATE GUYS TALK ABOUT JULIEN’S JOB

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