One loss by the Boston Bruins after a 10-game winning streak isn’t going to derail the club’s season. And the defeat to Buffalo Saturday also didn’t cost head coach Claude Julien a personal accolade, as after a brief crunch of the numbers thebruinsblog.net can confirm that the Bruins’ bench boss will be behind the Eastern Conference All-Star Team bench in Montreal Jan. 25.
The coach of the team in each conference with the best points percentage after games of Jan. 10 will earn the nod. The Bruins currently sit with 62 points through 39 games, and they have three games in the week ahead. Even if they lose all three, they’d have accumulated 62 of a possible 84 points for a percentage of .7381.
The closest competitor, Washington, has 55 points in its 40 games. The Caps also have just three games on this week’s docket — and wins in those games would give them 61 of a possible 86 for a percentage of just .7093.
The NHL will make an official announcement after those Jan. 10 games.“Of course it’s a big achievement. I think he’s deserving of it,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said this afternoon when told of thebruinsblog.net’s discovery. “But I also know that it’s something that although it’s an honor, he also knows these are things that happen when things are going good, and he also knows that he’s got a job at hand and he’s very ambitious to do it and he’s done a good job so far.
“It’s something that’s nice along the way, but Claude is very task-driven.”
This will be Julien’s first NHL All-Star nod but not his first as a pro. He coached the Planet/USA squad at the AHL All-Star Game in 2003. It will, however, be a triumphant return to the Bell Centre in Montreal for Julien, who coached Habs from January 2003 until he was fired in January 2006.
When told earlier this week that the Bruins were closing in on such on honor for their coach, center Marc Savard understood the magnitude of the accomplishment.
“Well it’d be nice. I’m not sure for him if going back to Montreal would be that fun. But it’d be nice for him,” said Savard when his team was still on the cusp of clinching the berth for Julien. “He’s done a great job since he came in here and everybody deserves to get rewarded for their hard work. It’d be nice for him.”
I’ll get Julien’s reaction to this feat in the days ahead, but the always-humble coach will no doubt shrug it off and shift the subject back to his team and the regular season games it still has at hand between now and the All-Star break. Defenseman Aaron Ward knows it’s that humility that contributes to Julien’s success behind the bench.
“I think it’d be great from our perspective. It’s kind of a compliment to the team as a whole. But I think if you were to ask him – and we know as 20-odd guys in the locker room – in the basic scheme of things it’s irrelevant,” Ward said this week. “When it comes down to the end of the season, where do you really want to be? Looking back saying you got your position on the All-Star team or the greater good occurred and we inevitably achieve what we set out to achieve.”
Under Julien the Bruins have already achieved a lot. A laughingstock under Julien’s predecessor Dave Lewis, the Bruins became more structured, disciplined and defense-oriented last winter in Julien’s first year. The team reached the playoffs and gave Montreal a run for its money in a seven-game first round series. The Bruins returned this year with mostly the same cast and got off to the franchise’s best start since the 1929-30 season. The team concept Julien has instilled has gone a long way to pushing the club toward the top of the NHL.
“The philosophy is it’s all about the great good of the whole. And he exudes that and I think an expectation comes down from the top, from management on down to coaching staff, that we’re going to adopt that philosophy too,” Ward said. “When it’s not, he deals with it and he deals with an even hand.”
As Eastern Conference head coach, Julien will be coaching a starting line-up dominated by players from Pittsburgh (Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby) and the hated Habs (Mike Komisarek, Andrei Markov and Alex Kovalev). Later this week, he’ll find out which of his Bruins will be joining the squad, along with representatives from the rest of the conference’s teams, as reserves. Although it’ll be tough to acknowledge every Bruins player that’s worthy, expect some combination of Phil Kessel, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Savard to be included when the NHL makes the announcement.
Julien will also select assistant coaches from the pool of fellow NHL head coaches, and no doubt he’ll have to tab host Montreal head coach Guy Carbonneau, which could make for an interesting situation. Julien and Carbonneau, of course, have been front and center during the re-birth of the Bruins-Habs rivalry these last two seasons. And they even exchanged heated words during a regular season game last year, when Julien felt that the Habs coaching staff accused him of putting players on the ice just to play physical when Montreal had built an insurmountable lead.
Julien won’t be the first Bruins coach to head an All-Star Team in Montreal. In 1957 and 1958, Milt Schmidt coached the All-Stars against the Stanley Cup champions Canadien. In 1975, the late Bep Guidolin coached the Wales against the Campbell Conference despite the fact that he’d moved on to coaching the Kansas City Scouts. His success with the Bruins the season before (he led them to the Stanley Cup final), earned him the All-Star nod.