Bruins turn to Julien to return Original Six franchise to playoffs
BOSTON -- Claude Julien wants the Boston Bruins to play more aggressively. Maybe that will make his bosses less aggressive in changing coaches.
Sitting in the same room where Dave Lewis was introduced as coach less than a year earlier, Julien vowed Thursday to turn mild-mannered forwards into hard-hitting forecheckers for a team that hasn't won a playoff series in eight years.
"We want to be aggressive, a physical type of team," the Bruins' new coach said.
But what about the frequent turnover in the job? Julien is the Bruins' third coach in the past year and 17th person to hold that job in the past 30.
"I didn't really look at that at all," said Julien, fired April 2 as coach of the New Jersey Devils, "because you just have to feel confident in your abilities to do the job and I do feel that."
Lewis, who took over last June 29 after Mike Sullivan was fired, was let go last Friday. Julien had "the inside edge" from the start among four candidates and his deal was finalized Monday, general manager Peter Chiarelli said. He and Julien wouldn't disclose the length or value of the contract.
Chiarelli wanted a coach who pushed his team to forecheck hard and held them accountable if they didn't. Lewis, who didn't do that, and Julien are both soft-spoken, pleasant men. But Chiarelli, hired May 29 last year after serving as Ottawa's assistant GM, was confident that Julien would keep after players.
"He demands that his players do what he wants to do," Chiarelli said. "I know a lot of guys are looking for a screamer. He's not, but he's a very passionate guy and disciplined. He demands accountability. You may not see it in the media, but he demands it."
So do the fans, especially after the Bruins missed the playoffs for the second straight season and gave up 70 more goals than they scored, the second-biggest differential in the NHL. They had the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference despite adding high-profile free agents Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.
Nevertheless, defenseman Aaron Ward, who played under Lewis in Detroit, said his departure was "a big shocker."
"But we all know this is a business and when a team doesn't achieve success someone has to bear the brunt of it. You feel sorry for any coach that's let go. As a player you feel responsible," Ward said.
The Bruins have plenty of young players and more getting close to the NHL at their top minor-league team in Providence. That was a major reason Chiarelli turned to Julien, a junior hockey coach for four seasons and an AHL coach for three.
"Claude has a track record of using these [young] guys and them prospering and developing," Chiarelli said. "That was one of the factors that weighed heavily in my decision."
Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, who played on the Canadian national team when Julien was an assistant coach in the 2006 World Championships, remembers him as a "players' coach."
"He was making you comfortable but at the same time he was making you work hard," Bergeron said. "I think his coaching mentality is to be hard to play against, and I think he's going to bring that to us. Everywhere he went, he's had some success and that tells a lot."
The Bruins will draft some new youngsters Friday night and Saturday in Columbus. They have the eighth pick and Chiarelli said they're unlikely to trade for a higher one, although he would consider dealing it for a lower pick if he can get a player who can help the team right away.
Julien, 47, was fired with three games left in his first regular season as coach of the Devils despite having them in first place in the Atlantic Division. General manager Lou Lamoriello, who took over, said he didn't think Julien had the team ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Devils lost in the second round.
"You always like to finish what you started," Julien said. "The most important thing is that you don't look back and you move forward."
He also coached Montreal from January 2003 until being fired in January 2006. In the 2003-04 playoffs, the Canadiens beat the Bruins in seven games after falling behind 3-1.
"The next day was when I had the biggest job to do. That was to convince the players that we were capable of coming back," Julien said.
He and Chiarelli, 42, first met about 20 years ago during summer workouts in Ottawa when Chiarelli played for Harvard and Julien was a defenseman with the Quebec Nordiques.
"This is not about friendship, but it's more about being on the same page and wanting to accomplish the same things," Julien said.
Chiarelli didn't even have time to socialize with his new coach at a party Thursday night to unveil the Bruins' new uniform. He was headed for Columbus to try to draft some players who could help the Bruins. In his 13 months as general manager, Chiarelli has fired two coaches, hired two others and added many players.
Deciding on assistant coaches will have to wait until after the draft.
"I want to get through this weekend first," Chiarelli said with a smile. "I'm trying to jam as much stuff as possible into one year."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press