There were many nights this season Bruins head coach Claude Julien probably wished he was some sort of healing shaman because of all the injuries that inflicted some of his best players.
Almost as many times, folks wished Julien was a drill sergeant that would rule his team with a firmer hand and use ice time and a spot in the lineup to better motivate some of his less-than-enthused, under-performing players.
Alas, Julien was neither in his follow-up year to his Jack Adams Trophy-winning campaign. That doesn’t mean that Julien had an awful season. But just like his Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Tim Thomas, Julien was unable to live up to the standards he set for himself in 2008-09.
Two bright spots in Julien’s season were the way his team toughed it out despite it’s rash of injuries (instead of collapsing the way Carolina did) and that at times his unending patience with players like Michael Ryder, Dennis Wideman and Blake Wheeler paid off here and there. Of course, there’s no doubt Julien waited too long with most of his underachievers and probably would’ve gotten more with bees than he got with honey. But that’s just not his style.
There were times even within games that he could’ve just tweaked a line here, put his best offensive players together for a shift there, and probably changed the outcome of the contest. However, he stood pat more often than not. The rare times he made such a move (the shootout loss in Chicago in December, Game 1 vs. Philadelphia), it worked.
Julien is going to have to live down the moniker of a coach that oversaw one of the biggest collapses in North American professional sports. Others that have been in similar situations haven’t fared well in the next couple seasons after the bout with history. It’ll be interesting to see if Julien changes anything about his approach when he comes back in the fall.
Season highlight: After holding back on Marc Savard’s minutes in his return from a severe concussion in the first three periods of Game 1 of the second-round series with the Flyers, Julien sticks Savard on the wing with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi and skates him for almost as much overtime time as he logged in regulation. The game ends with Savard hammering a loose puck into the back of the net on one of those many shifts.
Season low-light: It could be argued that every night Ryder, Wideman, Wheeler or Marco Sturm pulled a no-show during the regular season was a blight on Julien’s performance. But nothing was worse for the coach than the season-ending four-game losing streak. He failed to solve the problem of making up for the injured David Krejci and Sturm and couldn’t find a way to slow the Flyers in the neutral zone. His big idea was to put Wheeler on the Bergeron/Recchi line, which had little effect.
Final grade: C-plus
Julien kept his team together despite the injuries and the lack of blue-chip prospects to fill in from the farm team. But his hyper-patient style cost the Bruins more than it helped, as there were too many passengers (there’s that phrase again) on most evenings.
The crystal ball says … a hopefully deeper and younger Bruins team plays to Julien’s strengths next season and he’s not presented with as many situations where he has to decided to use the carrot of the stick to coax effort out of players.