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Claude Julien’s fate with Bruins still undecided

05.20.15 at 3:01 pm ET
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While the Bruins now officially have a general manager, the situation with their head coach remains unclear.

Speaking at his introductory press conference, Boston GM Don Sweeney would not confirm whether he intends to retain or fire Claude Julien. The Bruins gave their final two general manager candidates the opportunity to meet with Julien, something Sweeney did earlier this month. Sweeney also spoke to Julien upon being promoted on Wednesday.

Both Sweeney and Julien were at a number of Providence Bruins games down the stretch as well.

“I have some things that I want to sit down with Claude and go through in a very orderly fashion,” Sweeney said. “As to where I think things need to change and to what direction we need to change as a group, and also acknowledged to Claude during this whole process that I think tremendously as a coach and as a person. It’€™s just about lining up philosophical approaches that I believe in, that he believes in and that we can move the group forward.

“Some of that will involve personnel decisions. Some of that will involve staff member decisions and/or changes. That’€™s to be determined. He’€™s the coach of the Boston Bruins as of today. That’€™s for sure.”

Speaking after the press conference, B’€™s president Cam Neely spoke highly of Julien and downplayed the belief that he has wanted to fire Julien at multiple points during his time as team president.

“Let me be clear. I think we have a good coach,” Neely said. “I know it’€™s been reported that we have a problem with our coach. I think over the years I would have liked to see some adjustments, but it wasn’€™t about [seeing] certain coaches available. For me, it was about making sure we were making the right decision with our GM first and then we’€™ll go from there.

Asked whether he felt Julien could change with the organization as it tweaks its approach to winning, Neely was noncommittal.

“He’€™s another smart hockey guy. He knows the game extremely well,” Neely said. “He’€™s had a lot of success. This is where Don is going to make those decisions with Claude as far as the adjustments that he thinks we need to make.

“This comment that I made in 2010 about [how] we can’€™t win games, 0-0, keeps getting played. Claude and I flushed that out in 2010. It’€™s 2015 now.”

Julien has been Boston’s head coach for eight seasons, reaching the postseason for seven consecutive years prior to this season. His 351 wins with the B’s put him 10 wins away from tying Art Ross for the most wins in Bruins history.

The pool of top coaching candidates has thinned, most recently with Mike Babcock‘€™s decision to coach the Leafs on Wednesday.

Read More: Cam Neely, Claude Julien, Don Sweeney,

Milan Lucic says Don Sweeney a ‘great’ hire for Bruins

05.20.15 at 1:18 pm ET
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Milan Lucic‘s future is now in Don Sweeney’s hands. Reached for comment upon the team’s hire of Sweeney, Lucic expressed excitement for the new GM.

“I think it’s great,” Lucic said of the hire. “He’s been around the organization for a while and [I] think he’ll do a great job.”

Lucic is entering the final year of a three-year, $18 million contract. Sweeney and the B’s could either try to extend the player, trade him or go into the season with him unsigned, a rare practice in the days of former GM Peter Chiarelli.

Lucic has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of 15 teams to which he would accept a deal.

Speaking to on Monday, Lucic declined to share whether he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Bruins.

“We’ll see what happens,” Lucic said Monday. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

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Read More: Don Sweeney, Milan Lucic,

What will Don Sweeney do with Bruins’ current contracts?

05.20.15 at 1:10 pm ET
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Don Sweeney’s first big decision will regard the fate of coach Claude Julien. After that, he must take Boston’s current roster and turn it into the contender it was just a season ago.

Between the team’s current contracts and the one that Dougie Hamilton figures to command, the B’s won’t have much cap space to play with this offseason unless they unload some. Here’s a refresher of Boston’s current contracts and restricted free agents expected to return. Both Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille will play elsewhere next season, while fellow unrestricted free agents Carl Soderberg and Adam McQuaid seem less than likely to return. Marc Savard, who will remain on long-term injured reserve so the Bruins can use his $4.017 million cap hit elsewhere, is also left out here:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.01.09 PM

Youngsters Joe Morrow, Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev and Brian Ferlin could all push for playing time next season. The team could also give Malcolm Subban the job as Tuukka Rask‘s backup, but he might be better served as Providence’s starter. Jeremy Smith should be among the options to replace the departed Niklas Svedberg.

Read More: Don Sweeney,

Bruins name Don Sweeney general manager

05.20.15 at 9:16 am ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

The Bruins announced Wednesday that Don Sweeney has been named the team’s general manager.

replaces Peter Chiarelli, who was fired last month after nine seasons with the team. In the time between Chiarelli’s dismissal and Wednesday’s announcement, Sweeney had been handling general manager responsibilities.

A press release sent out by the B’s noted that Sweeney would be “in charge of every aspect of the team’s hockey operations.” Team President Cam Neely said upon firing Chiarelli that the next GM would decide coach Claude Julien‘s fate, so Sweeney’s first big decision as GM will be whether to keep Boston’s coach of eight years or pick his own guy.

Sweeney joined the Bruins’€™€™ hockey operations department in 2006 and was named one of Chiarelli’€™€™s assistant general managers prior to their Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season. Prior to this season, Sweeney was also named the GM of the Providence Bruins. His responsibilities involved finding and helping develop prospects, with the team’s annual development camp during the summer serving as his brain child.

As a player, Sweeney enjoyed a lengthy NHL career in which he played 1,052 regular-season games and 103 playoff games for the Bruins. He played his final season with the Stars in 2003-04.

This season marked the first time in eight years that the Bruins missed the playoffs. Neely decided during the season that the team would not be trading major assets at the trade deadline, but the biggest reasons for the team’s unsuccessful season were a team-wide dropoff in scoring, injuries on defense and a collapse during the team’s final three-game road trip.

“I am fully aware of everyone’€™s expectations to move the organization forward,” Sweeney said in the team’s press release. “The challenges ahead rests with the players, the coaches and the management group to work hard to make the necessary changes to bring the Bruins back to the forefront of contending for the Stanley Cup.”

Read More: Don Sweeney,

Milan Lucic on potential hometown discount: ‘We’ll have to wait and see’

05.18.15 at 7:24 pm ET
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Entering the final year of his contract, Milan Lucic doesn’€™t know which general manager will sign him next, whether that’€™s in Boston or elsewhere. As he and his teammates await the team’€™s hiring of Peter Chiarelli’€™s successor, Lucic’€™s future with the Bruins remains unclear.

Lucic is entering the final year of a three-year, $18 million deal that commands an annual salary cap hit of $6 million. He has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of 15 teams to which he would accept a trade.

Asked Monday whether he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Bruins, Lucic was non-committal.

“We’€™ll see what happens,” he said. “We’€™ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Lucic has stated multiple times that he wants to stay with the Bruins.

“For myself, personally, I just want to be back and stay in Boston,” Lucic said at the conclusion of the Bruins’ season on April 11 in Tampa. You love the team, you love the city, you love the organization and you hope that things stay the same as much as they can.”

More to come on Lucic.

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As expected, Milan Lucic gives well-thought-out answer to Deflategate question

05.18.15 at 6:57 pm ET
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As far as Boston athletes go, there might not be a more devout sports fan than Milan Lucic. As such, it wasn’€™t totally ridiculous that he fielded questions about Deflategate Monday night at Rob Ninkovich‘€™s celebrity ping pong tournament.

Lucic responded by noting the Patriots’€™ second-half success in the game in which they were caught and saying that Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time regardless of what comes of the ongoing process.

“It’€™s funny,” Lucic said. “I mean, a lot of fans outside, they obviously don’€™t like the teams that win a lot. In New England, we’€™ve been spoiled here with a lot of championships, especially since 2001-02.

“As far as Deflategate goes, personally I don’€™t even know what a fully pumped-up football is supposed to feel like, so I can’€™t comment on much, but at the end of the day, if you look at it as a whole, they scored most of their points in [the AFC Championship] in the second half, so say what you want. In my mind [we’€™re still talking about] still one of, if not the best quarterback of all time, one of the best franchises in football history.

Added Lucic: “Like I said, a lot of fans on the outside world, they don’€™t like the teams that win a lot. It’€™s just the nature of the sport and we’€™re OK with that as athletes. We all love to win and we love to win for our fans and our city. We’€™re proud doing it.”

Check back soon for Lucic’€™s thoughts on hockey-related matters.

Read More: Deflategate, Milan Lucic,

With Canadiens’ elimination, Tim Thomas remains an exception to Vezina rule

05.13.15 at 5:01 pm ET
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The last time a goaltender seemed such a shoo-in for the Vezina Trophy was in 2011, when Tim Thomas turned in a record-setting regular-season performance. Similarly, Carey Price was so dominant this regular season that he is not only the favorite to win the Vezina, but the Hart Trophy as the NHL‘€™s most valuable player.

First, Price will have some down time in the month and a half between now and the NHL Awards. His season and the Canadiens’€™ season is done after being eliminated by the Lightning Tuesday night in Tampa.

Prior to the 2011 postseason, we took a look at whether having that season’€™s Vezina-winner meant raising the Cup. The answer then was no, and the fact that Thomas and the Bruins went on to win it all that year proved to be more the exception than the rule.

Since the league adopted the current criteria for the Vezina in the 1981-82 season (it used to go the starting goalie for the team with the fewest goals against), only four Vezina-winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in the same season: Billy Smith (1982 Islanders), Grant Fuhr (1988 Oilers), Martin Brodeur (2003 Devils) and Thomas (2011 Bruins).

As the following graphic shows, it’€™s actually relatively common for Vezina winners to end up with a longer offseasons than expected, as their teams are typically bounced in one of the first two rounds. Here are how the teams of Vezina-winners have fared in the postseason since 2000:

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 6.43.05 PM

Notable there is that only three Vezina-winning goalies have even reached the conference finals since the 1999-2000 season, as Dominik Hasek and the Sabres won the Eastern Conference finals in 1999 before falling to the Stars in the Cup finals.

Price was not the reason the Canadiens were eliminated, but his .920 save percentage over 12 postseason games was a far cry from his league-best .933 clip in the regular season. What ultimately doomed Montreal was Michel Therrien’€™s anti-possession system, a lack of offensive depth and, though it hasn’€™t deterred past champions, a woefully unproductive power play.

With that, the league’€™s best goaltender can now hit the links, as they often can this time of year. Vezina-winners’€™ lack of postseason success confirms the single biggest fact about the Stanley Cup playoffs: It’€™s not about who has the best players, but whose players are at their best for the most critical two months.

Read More: Carey Price, Tim Thomas,
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