A lot of Bruins fans are angry today.
At 7:35 AM yesterday, the Bruins announced that they had relieved Coach Claude Julien of his duties as head coach of the Boston Bruins.
Uppeer management issued a brief statement.
“I want to thank Claude for his service to the Boston Bruins, and wish him and his family the best in the future. I am confident in the direction and vision that Don has for our team, and look forward to seeing the results on the ice.” — Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs
“Claude Julien is the all-time winningest coach in Boston Bruins history, and my family and I join Bruins fans in thanking him for the many great memories that have come while he has been behind the Bruins bench.
As a management team, we set a high standard for ourselves, and I believe that our organization is moving in the right direction towards meeting and exceeding those standards.” — Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs
“These decisions are not easy, and Don has my full support. I believe that we have a better team than our results to date show. I also recognize that there are areas that we as a group need to improve upon.
This decision does not in any way diminish Claude’s legacy as a Bruins coach. I would like to wish him and his family all the best moving forward.” — Bruins President Cam Neely
This in and of itself did not come as a shock to Bruins fans or the media, as there had been some discussion of it in the hockey media for weeks, and the Bruins front office pointedly did not dismiss the idea.
And, of course, in the offseason, they brought up Bruce Cassidy — who had previously coached the Washington Capitals – from the P-Bruins. He was now an heir-apparent to a coach whose job was possibly not secure. Cassidy has now been named interim head coach.
However, Claude remains one of the best and most successful head coaches in the NHL, and fans are far from universally behind this decision.
In fact, fans were angry yesterday.
Let’s get some reactions (from that font of wisdom & patience known as “random Twitter comments”)
Bob “@NHLBruins Sweeney you are sackless and you should be fired!!!”
Mel “@NHLBruins hopefully you’re next, Sweeney. You’ve failed Boston.”
Jimmy “@NHLBruins the team is deaf to upper management … just like upper management is deaf to the fans”
Lisa “@NHLBruins could have waited until Patriots finished their parade. Smh. 😟”
Jan “@NHLBruins totally bush league move doing this today to hide behind Pats parade. Close to losing this fan of 40 plus years. Classless.”
Jan “@NHLBruins we want new management. And ownership. Hope islanders move to CT so we have other option.”
Bill “@NHLBruins My 2 cents Cam Neely is the problem. Don’t think for minute that Chiarelli or Sweeney make personnel moves w/out Neely’s say so”
Brian “@NHLBruins sorry. That team is deaf!”
David “@NHLBruins i dont disagree with firing coach however this roster lacks talent to consistently compete. #rebuild”
Sports talk radio was much the same.
Notice any trends? The feedback wasn’t just bad — it was universally bad. As in 100% disapproval.
Surely this isn’t a completely representative sample, but the response was more overwhelmingly negative than any other sports related decision that I can recall.
What are some of the complaints?
- Well, let’s start with the unfortunate and highly suspicious timing – The biggest dog in the Boston sports market – the New England Patriots – just 36 hours prior had won a Superbowl in spectacular fashion after the 2-year-long shit-show known as “Deflategate”, and had a parade scheduled for 11AM in town. All eyes were on this event. 1 million fans were expected to attend. All regional media providers were sending their reporters & cameras to this parade. All the media sources who might otherwise be interested in broadcasting a Bruins press conference live were locked into showing this parade instead.
Not only did the Bruins chose this day to pull the trigger on a decision they had clearly been contemplating for over a year, but the time they chose for the press conference was 11:30 AM – a full half-hour AFTER the parade was to begin, ensuring that no major media outlet would carry the press conference live, and making it difficult for media members to even arrive at the TDGarden!
Many observers felt that the Bruins were taking advantage of the spectacle to bury unpleasant news behind a bigger event. The timing of the press conference was such that it would be particularly difficult and unlikely for the possibility of live coverage, which – even in todays DVR world – is always the most impactful. And for those Bruins fans who are also Pats fans, this is just a turd in the punchbowl of an otherwise spectacular time.
- The next complaint is the relative lack of progress on building the roster. When was the last player trade or free-agent acquisition? Well, in the offseason, they signed struggling backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, failed to re-sign Loui Ericsson, signed David Backes in his stead, and acquired Tim Schaller.
For a team that has lost a lot of veteran depth on the blue line, swapping a couple of top-6 forwards and failing to find a backup goaltender is not a great path for improvement.
Firing a coach when the team has not filled its obvious roster holes sure sounds like scapegoating.
- Underlying this is doubt about the reasoning behind this decision. Exactly why did they fire Claude Julien? It’s not immediately obvious. I defy you to listen to this press conference and tell me why this move was made.
The closest thing to an explanation is this quote: “An opportunity for a new set of eyes to come in, new voice for our players to start to hear, and hopefully their ears perked up.”
So they’re telling us that they’re just kicking over the ant hill in the hope that it will be stronger when it comes back together.
GM Don Sweeney claims to have a plan that he doesn’t want to deviate from, but it is not obvious what that plan is. When explicitly asked what the plan is, his response was “I’m not deviating from it”. (There actually are a few bits and pieces out there, but that will wait for another time)
If we were to listen closely to the press conference, we would all get headaches from the poor recording quality and the doublespeak (and whether it was on purpose or not, there was a lot of doublespeak and non-answers), but we can try to read between the lines.
– Sweeney told Claude of his decision on Tuesday morning, and addressed the team later that morning.
– Sweeney takes full credit/blame for firing Claude
– He blamed the PR dept for press conference timing, but that it was based on the decision timing
– The Bruins are rebuilding but are unwilling to actually say so out loud
– yet they are still expected by upper management to make the playoffs
– so Sweeney says ‘bridge’ a lot
– They are pinning their hopes on prospects and waiting for them to come to fruition in lieu of making trades
– They still intend to put pressure on the team to win and make the playoffs
– They wanted to shake things up and see how Cassidy & the players react.
– Sweeney will have multiple head coach candidates (including Cassidy), and will decide in the summer.
– Trades have not materialized because he wasn’t prepared to give up the big assets necessary for meaningful trades
– The Bruins will be a buyer at the trade deadline, hoping for longer term assets over rentals
What can we expect from Cassidy?
Well, he is expected to focus on speeding up the tempo of the practices, with an eye to speeding up the play of the Bruins and increasing their endurance to allow 60 minute performances.
There is the possibility of moving from a Top-6/Bottom-6 forward line philosophy to a distribution of forward pairings.
Cassidy wants to push the speed with which pucks are carried out of the defensive zone.
Less perimeter play and more half-wall and net presence in the offensive zone.
Those are targets. Whether they are achievable remains to be seen.