The Boston Bruins fired Claude Julien as head coach on Feb. 7 during the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade and replaced him with Assistant Coach Bruce Cassidy. The firing followed the Bruins’ failure to make the playoffs over the past two seasons. The Bruins’ rival, the Montreal Canadiens, picked Julien up as their new head coach.
Prior to losing his job, Julien had been the longest tenured coach in the NHL by far, having coached ten consecutive years for the Bruins. Julien had picked up a Stanley Cup in 2011 with the team, but was on the verge of missing the playoffs for a third straight year. Julien’s defensive style had not been working well over the past couple of seasons, but still the players said they were disappointed their coach had lost his job.
“We have to realize this is not going to fix everything,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said to NESN reporters. “We have to go out there and do the job and be better as a whole.” Even Cassidy acknowledged as a member of Julien’s former staff that he was “disappointed” to see the Stanley Cup champion be fired.
The Bruins have played well under their new coach Bruce Cassidy and have beat well ranked teams in dramatic fashion through their first three games. The Bruins offense has scored more goals due to Cassidy’s emphasis on creativity and speed, explaining “our focus today was on pace.”
Even Julien acknowledged the impact of the coaching change after talking with Montreal media, as he said, “So far who could say [Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney] didn’t make the right [coaching] move with three wins in a row? Certainly it had an immediate impact.”
Prior to Cassidy’s first few wins as the Bruins head coach, there was speculation as to whether he was ready to coach. Cassidy’s last head coaching job in the NHL occurred 13 years ago with the Washington Capitals and ended terribly after he was fired within two years. He had a strained relationship with Capitals players and at one point even accused them of using their kids and families as excuses for poor performances. Cassidy appears to have garnered more maturity and experience since that time.
Julien was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens a week after he was fired. This may add fuel to the storied rivalry between the two hockey teams. “I’m with another team now and I need to succeed with that team,” Julien said to Montreal media, “There’s obviously a rivalry that exists between those two organizations, and I intend to keep that rivalry going. But on the ice, not off the ice. I have too much respect for those [Bruins] players.”