Last season, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien took a team most experts left for dead before the regular season started and led the Black and Gold to their first postseason berth in four years. But the NHL Broadcasters’ Association didn’t acknowledge Julien’s job when the finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year were selected.

This time around, Julien and the work he did to get the Bruins to win the top seed in the Eastern Conference nearly wire to wire finally during the 2008-09 season got a little respect. Julien was announced as a finalist for this year’s Jack Adams Trophy along with San Jose head coach Todd McClellan and St. Louis bench boss Andy Murray.

If you want to know who should win this award, just look at the candidates and think about which one’s team is still playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs and which ones are going golfing. The Bruins have improved their point total by more than 40 points compared to the playoff-less season they suffered before Julien’s arrival. They were No. 1 in goals scored and goals allowed this season. Julien would tell you that most of the credit goes to his players, but I’m here to tell you that coaching is as much a factor in the Bruins’ meteoric rise to the top of theĀ  NHL.

Defenseman Andrew Ference definitely appreciates his mentor’s efforts.

“I’ve had good coaches that are completely different — that taught the game well and really developed a skill. But when it came time to game time and the attitude surrounding a losing streak, or a winning streak for that matter, there was maybe of lack of control in certain situations. Whereas he walks the line so well as far as having respect for the players but also demanding respect for what he’s trying to teach,” said Ference today after the Bruins’ morning skate in Wilmington, Mass. “It’s a really hard line to walk when you’re dealing with so many different attitudes and personalities. To be hard enough on people to get the most out of them but without crossing that kind of line of being offensive, it’s tough, it’s not easy. And he’s done that so well and gotten guys to really maximize their games.

“You look at our talented guys, like (Marc Savard) and (Phil Kessel), and how much more complete their games are, that doesn’t just happen on their own. That comes from coaching.”

So the Bruins will have three finalists at the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas June 18. Zdeno Chara is up for the Norris Trophy, while goaltender Tim Thomas is up for the Vezina.