Rabid Habs

The Forum: Claude Julien & Boston’s Recent Success

With the Habs playing the Boston Bruins three times in 8 days this week, we note that Claude Julien’s former team has flourished since firing their old head coach, while the Montreal Canadiens have struggled under Claude Julien so far. 

With this in mind, we asked our contributors if this should be cause for worry or concern among Habs fans?

 

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – While it is tempting to jump all over this and claim that the Habs screwed up royally yet again, I think we have to wait. Before we make any final pronouncements on Julien 2.0, I think it’s only fair to wait until Bergevin supplies him with a full team that includes legitimate centermen on the top 2 lines, and a first pairing D that isn’t a patchwork of journeymen, or untested kids.

It may very well be that the Bruins dumped Julien once the game had passed him by. We (including Habs brass) were so enchanted by the opportunity of having a coach who was considered “elite” that we glossed over his underwhelming results with the Bruins over his final couple of seasons. We could have said that they were reeling from losing mainstays like Lucic, Thornton and Ference. Chara was aging. Youth hadn’t come into its own yet. Maybe Julien was a bigger part of the problem, and the Habs scooped it up because they were struggling badly. Therrien 2.0 was played out, and coaches like Julien don’t become available too often.

It’s hard to fault the Habs for doing what they did, but if it turns out that Julien can’t adapt to the modern NHL game, then they’ll have to own that. But we can’t go there until Julien is given a full roster of talent where guys play in the positions they’re meant to be in.

 

Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – One of my biggest criticisms of Michel Therrien (yeah, I have to start with this) wasn’t even about the coach himself. Marc Bergevin seemed almost too willing to get his coach exactly what he wanted.

To that end, the roster is, more or less, the same. Bergevin filled Claude Julien’s room with Michel Therrien’s favorite toys.

With that being said, I really don’t think we should be all that concerned. While Therrien’s system relied on defencemen banking the puck off the glass to relieve pressure, Julien wants his defencemen to relay the puck forward to transition out of the zone. Looking at the roster, I’m not certain the roster has six guys capable of skating the puck out of trouble or moving it to someone who can. This is more of a Bergevin problem than a Julien problem. Look at Julien’s 2011 Bruins: Chara, Boychuck, Seidenberg, and Kaberle at the deadline. Today, these names don’t sound all that appealing, but this was a really good group of puck moving defencemen in 2011. Not elite, but good.

I’m not really willing to throw in the towel on Claude Julien until we see what he can do with a roster that works with his playing style. Guys like Mete and Jerabek are a good start, but throughout the lineup, Montreal will need to add guys who are smart with the puck in order to see what Julien 2.0 can really do.

 

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – Thank you to Kyle and Ian for being entirely reasonable about this conversation. It’s nice that we here at Rabid Habs can get this out before things get crazy on the topic, because you can bet if the Bruins beat the Habs twice more this week (they play them Wednesday and Saturday), we won’t be the only ones talking about it.

And if things do get crazy on the topic of Claude Julien, it won’t be without some merit. As I look at it now, there is – unfortunately – a relatively decent argument to be made that the game has now passed Claude Julien by.

Julien was the guy behind the bench for the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup win. That was a team that beat-up, bruised, and bullied its way to the Cup over a high-speed, creative offence in Vancouver. That was 7 years and a whole different league ago. In the mean time, he hasn’t really had any success since the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Bruins in OT of the second round of the 2013-2014 playoffs.

Since then the only playoff action Claude Julien’s teams have seen was last season’s first round exit by the Habs, a team he’d coached for less than two months at that point.

To be fair, the Bruins were in transition between the old guard and the new at that point and the same should be said of this iteration of the Habs. There were few people more excited than I was when Claude Julien was hired and I continue to believe in him, or at the very least give him the benefit of the doubt until Marc Bergevin gives him a real team to coach, but if you wanted to build a case that the game may have passed him by then you certainly have a starting point these days.

 

Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – Oh, I certainly think he has his warts. Every coach does. Look at the Leafs. The honeymoon phase with Babcock seems to be over and everything he does is criticized.

I’ve already said my piece about the kind of coach Julien is in a former iteration of The Forum. We know what he is; I just don’t think we know what this team is going to be in six months.

 

Further reading: Sportsnet’s Eric Engels talks to former and current Bruins about Claude Julien’s impact on them, meanwhile, Arpon Basu of The Athletic writes about Julien’s legacy in Boston (subscription).