|Bruins coach Claude Julien a man of low profile, high achievement||07.04.13 at 10:30 am ET|
Claude Julien‘s New Jersey Devils had just defeated the Bruins, 3-1. Winners of four of their last five, with their stars finally healthy, the Devils stood second overall in the Eastern Conference with 102 points and appeared poised to make another extended postseason run.
“They are a good example of one of the best defensive teams in hockey,” Bruins coach Dave Lewis said during the postgame press conference. The defeat marked the eighth loss in the Bruins’ last nine games, and Boston was firmly entrenched in the basement of the Northeast Division.
The game was played on April 1, 2007. The next day, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello fired Julien. The biggest blemish for a coach in the National Hockey League is to lose his players. The loss of the coach’s job, naturally, soon follows. Speculation ran rampant that Julien had lost control of the players in the dressing room.
The reason for Julien’s dismissal in New Jersey, in Lamoriello’s eyes, was not complicated.
“I don’t think we’re at a point,” Lamoriello explained in 2007, “of being ready both mentally and [physically] to play the way that is necessary going into the playoffs.” Lamoriello, recognized as one of the finest executives in hockey since the day he arrived in East Rutherford in 1987, already had led to the Devils to three Stanley Cups. His words against Julien — a man whose life was completely intertwined with hockey — were condemning. He had lost his players.
A REBUILD IN BOSTON
Move ahead six years, and the Bruins, having just swept the extremely talented Penguins, huddled together to accept the Prince of Wales trophy. A collection of superstars, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, were no match for Julien’s well-balanced team.
In the midst of the ensuing postgame celebration, Julien was asked what going to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years meant to him. “What it means to us,” the polite Julien corrected, “it means a lot.”
While slowly silencing detractors, Julien has built a family on the ice in Boston. He is the longest-tenured Bruins coach since Milt Schmidt, who guided the Bruins from 1954 until 1961. Since his hire in 2007, Julien has won more playoff games (50) than any other coach except for Detroit’s Mike Babcock (51). Two more victories would have catapulted Julien atop that list, as well as captured another Stanley Cup for his Bruins. Yet the man born in Blind River, Ontario, does not care to hear about his success or tell you how much he knows about the game. He has no time to share anecdotes from his playing days. Even after a painful defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks, his narrow lens is focused entirely on the ice.
“Our team likes to deflect credit,” says Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “The humble roots of Claude and the team, it’s an important part of our makeup. It starts from the top and works its way down.”