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Frank Vatrano shares AHL’s most outstanding rookie award 04.14.16 at 4:11 pm ET
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Bruins forward Frank Vatrano was named a co-recipient of the Dudley Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s most outstanding rookie for the 2015-16 season.

Vatrano split the award with Avalanche prospect and 2015 10th overall pick Mikko Rantanen, who had more points than Vatrano but played far more games. Rantanen had 24 goals and 36 assists for 60 points in 51 games, while Vatrano led the AHL with 34 goals despite playing in only 34 games. Vatrano added 17 assists for a total of 51 points.

The first-year pro and East Longmeadow native played more NHL games than AHL games this season, as he scored eight goals and added three assists for 11 points in 39 games for Boston.

Don Sweeney: ‘I don’t believe we need a major overhaul’ 04.14.16 at 2:01 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he did not intend to make drastic changes to the Bruins’ roster.

Sweeney, who will enter his second offseason as Bruins general manager, said his priority is to add to what the Bruins have rather than rapidly shipping players out. The Bruins currently have 11 NHL players under contract for next season.

“I don’t believe we need a major overhaul,” Sweeney said. “I believe we need to continue to forge depth in the organization. When you go through these times where you have injuries and you have players that have to be able to step in, you have to have a plan that allows players to develop at the right time that they’re supposed rather than force a player. At times, when you don’t have the depth overall, you can expose a younger player. We’d like to have the patience in that regard.

“People talk about young player integration. David Pastrnak’s a great example of a player that we’re going to have a tremendous amount of patience with and Claude has patience with. [He’s] a very exciting player, a big part of our organization going forward and we need to make sure that we’re developing him in the right manner.”

Sweeney did not say whether he intended to part with any of the Bruins’ free agents. The GM said he discussed each of their futures in the team’s recent exit meetings, but declined to reveal whether he’d told them anything definitive. He did reiterate his preference to sign Loui Eriksson and said he did not regret keeping the player at the trade deadline.

On the subject of buyouts, Sweeney said he would be willing to use them. Jimmy Hayes, for whom the Bruins traded Reilly Smith last offseason, could be a candidate to be bought out of his contract.

“From a buyout perspective, I think everything in the CBA up and down will be at our disposal,” Sweeney said. “The ownership has been very supportive of what we need to do [and] continue to do going forward, and if that’s part of it, that’s part of it. We just need to continue to get better.”

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Claude Julien: Starting with new team might have been ‘easier,’ but ‘that’s not what I want’ 04.14.16 at 11:20 am ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

Claude Julien returning to the Bruins wasn’t just about the organization deciding to keep their head coach for a 10th season. It was also about Julien’s willingness to return to the organization rather than seek a new gig.

Though it might have been difficult logistically given that he still has two more years left on his contract, Julien and the organization could have decided a parting was in both parties’ best interests. That would have freed Julien up to head to fill the head coaching vacancy in Ottawa, where Julien grew up.

Julien explained in Thursday’s press conference that his preference was to remain with Boston in an effort to get the team back to the playoffs after two consecutive ninth-place finishes.

“I did a self-evaluation,” Julien said. “[I considered], ‘Do I still have the ear of the dressing room? Are they still hearing?’ All that stuff that you go through. Even in my regard, being here nine years and everything else. Everything that came out of it, by the time I was done [with] my evaluation when I met with Don on Sunday morning was I want to be here, I want to bring this team back to where we once had it. I know that there’s some bumps along the way.

“There’s no doubt — I’m going to be honest with you — would it have been easier for me to go somewhere else and say that I’m going to go somewhere fresh and start? That’s not what I want. To me, this organization’s been good to me. They’ve been loyal to me. Like I said before: I love the city, I love our fans. I love just the environment here. You want to be somewhere where people are really passionate about the game. There’s a lot of people here, including players, that have helped me become the coach that I am.

“I don’t want to be that guy that bails just because all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road. I want to be that guy that perserveres. Things that went through my mind are, it’s OK to be remembered right now [as] the winningest coach in Bruins history, but I’d rather be remembered for a guy who had enough character to go back into the trenches and dig his heels in and help turn this organization around vs. the other way that could have been.

“I was pretty clear with Donnie on that front and now it was up to Don to tell me what his thoughts were. Obviously we have very similar thoughts and it was great to hear earlier that I still had his support and that he still believed that I was the guy. That’s why I’m still here today.”

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Here’s the letter Bruins sent season ticket-holders regarding Claude Julien 04.14.16 at 10:56 am ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

Here is the letter sent to Bruins season ticket-holders Thursday announcing the return of Claude Julien for a 10th season:

Dear Valued Ticket Holders,

Like all of you, I am extremely disappointed with the outcome of this season. We set high expectations for ourselves, and we certainly realize that you as fans share the same set of high expectations. It is our responsibility to ice a Team that you are proud to support and one that contends for the Stanley Cup year in and year out. I fully understand that we did not meet these expectations this year and let you all down in the process.

There are a number of important matters to address this offseason, and I wanted to communicate our strategy surrounding a few of these matters directly to you. All of the respective decisions will be made with a singular objective in mind: to improve our club in both the short term and the long term.

The first involves our head coach. Claude Julien is our head coach and will be our head coach when we return to action in the fall. Claude’s record as the winningest coach in Bruins’ history speaks for itself, and he is fully committed to leading the Team back to being a Stanley Cup contender. We recognize there are areas of our game and our roster that need to be improved, and we firmly believe that Claude gives us the best chance at on-ice success in both the near and long term. We are confident in Claude’s ability to continue to make the necessary game adjustments while we work to develop players and re-shape our roster.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Bruins to make Claude Julien, Don Sweeney available Thursday 04.13.16 at 6:37 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

When the Bruins did not make Claude Julien or Don Sweeney available at the Bruins’ end-of-season player availability, it seemed the writing was on the wall for the Bruins’ head coach. The team’s next announcement, it figured, would be that they had relieved the long-tenured coach of his duties after nine seasons.

Well, this team and organization has been anything but predictable since last April, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been a shock when the next announcement ended up being Wednesday’s release that both Sweeney and Julien would be available for a press conference on Thursday. President Cam Neely and CEO Charlie Jacobs’ year-end presser is scheduled for next Wednesday, according to the press release.

Tuesday’s release did not reveal anything definitive about Julien’s status. It’s certainly possible that they could still end up firing Julien and that they’re in no rush to do it because they figure the candidates to replace him (Nate Leaman, Bruce Cassidy) aren’t going anywhere in the meantime. They can theoretically hold onto Julien in an effort to get the Senators to fork over some sort of compensation for the head coach’s services.

Or it could mean that the Bruins are actually going to keep him. As we’ve written, that would be the smart move, even if it’s seemed like the unlikely move since the B’s missed the playoffs for a second straight season.

At any rate, the scheduling could lead one to believe that Julien won’t be fired in the coming days unless they’re going to bump up Neely’s presser. After all, if the Bruins were going to fire Julien, the president of the team would have to speak a heck of a lot sooner than a whole week later.

Days of taunting (should be) over for Bruins 04.13.16 at 12:48 pm ET
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Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand

By all indications, Brad Marchand has loved non-playoff teams over the years. They’ve just been such easy targets.

Playing on them hasn’t been as fun. After years of shoving their 2011 Stanley Cup championship in their opponents’ faces (probably too many years), the Bruins officially have no scoreboard to point to, no recent track record with which to antagonize the other bench.

The Bruins certainly got their money’s worth with their Cup championship and general dominance over the Eastern Conference. They were better than their opponents and they let everyone in the NHL know to the point that they were admittedly obnoxious. Months before they won it all, Marchand skated by the Leafs’ bench in a game towards the end of the 2010-11 regular season and made a golf-swing gesture. He proved he could walk the walk by racking up 19 points during Boston’s Cup run.

“When we were winning and when we were going to the finals and when we won, we had such a dominant team,” Marchand said this week. “You can play with that arrogance and you can get away with it because you back it up. That’s tough to do when you’re not winning as frequently.”

The taunting was part of the Bruins’ charm during their recent heyday, but with two straight ninth-place finishes, that heyday is over. When the B’s kept it up long after winning, it became more of a bad look than anything else. The Bruins were not happy when Marchand made a Cup-raising gesture to the Vancouver crowd in a game the B’s were losing by three goals during the 2013-14 season. It was awkward when Milan Lucic raised the Cup to Canadiens fans in the 2014-15 seasons, which was not only four seasons after Boston won, but mere months after the Habs had eliminated them from the previous season’s playoffs.

Fortunately, Marchand has a few other ways of entertaining. His play with the puck on his stick made this the most impressive regular season of his career, as he scored a personal best 37 goals to finish sixth in the league.

Marchand hopes to continue putting on a show the way he did this season. Just don’t expect much of the taunting until the B’s are winning again.

“If you’re going to act arrogant, you have to be able to back it up,” Marchand said. “That’s something we were always able to do. It’s tough at times and it’s frustrating when you’re playing against teams and they’re acting like that towards you. Hopefully we can get back there and be able to play with that same kind of swagger.”

Alexander Khokhlachev’s agent says Claude Julien didn’t give player a chance 04.13.16 at 9:51 am ET
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Alexander Khokhlachev didn’t hold back when venting his frustrations with the Bruins back in September, so perhaps his agent’s recent comments shouldn’t come as a surprise.

With Khokhlachev at the end of his entry-level contract and coach Claude Julien’s status with the Bruins in limbo, Khokhlachev’s agent blamed his client’s lack of NHL success (zero points in nine NHL games) on Boston’s head coach.

Khokhlachev posted strong numbers in the AHL the last two seasons but was invisible during his callups to Boston, where he’s averaged under 10 minutes of ice time per game.

A second-round pick of the Bruins in 2011, the center’s issues with Julien will certainly feed into Julien’s perhaps overstated reputation for not being a good coach for developing young forwards. Julien has developed the likes of Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Ryan Spooner, among others. Khokhlachev’s chances of becoming a full-time Bruin dwindled when Spooner and Noel Acciari seized open center jobs behind Patrice Bergeron and Krejci.

Khokhlachev will be a restricted free agent this summer. If he is to stay in North America (his father is the general manager of Spartak Moscow of the KHL), it’s hard to believe he’d want to stay with the B’s.

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