They finally did it.
After days, weeks, months, and years of speculation, the Boston Bruins finally sent the winningest head coach in team history Claude Julien packing. After the ‘will they or won’t they?’ seemingly died down after the fever pitch of a couple weeks ago, the Bs front office decided they had seen enough after Saturday’s sloppy loss to Toronto and electronically sent word to the public at 8AM today that the NHL’s longest-tenured coach has been fired. Former assistant Bruce Cassidy was named interim head coach.
Whether intended or not, it’s a page straight out of the Bruins playbook from 25 years ago—“do it while they’re otherwise occupied” at the Patriots Super Bowl parade—that has pissed off fans and it sure doesn’t make the team look good in many eyes. Yet I’m not sure what would have been the best time over the last three days (well, Monday if the Pats lost).
It’s clear now that the Bruins were all set with Claude after the Saturday night loss. But if they fired Claude on Sunday, they’d look like thunder-stealing assholes with the Pats about to play in the Super Bowl. And if they did it yesterday, they’d have overshadowed the huge Patriots win on Sunday (it’s not inconceivable that the Bruins has a press release prepared for a Monday AM release until Tom Brady had other plans). So they did it today, the day of the Duckboat Parade.
For the Bs, it was damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The Bruins likely deferred to the Pats on Sunday and Monday before pulling the trigger today. Bruins media still covered the presser late this morning (i.e. the people who’d be covering it whether there was a parade today or not). And there’s always tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. People around here aren’t going to suddenly forget Claude was fired.
But scheduling the presser for during the parade ensured no live shots (save for a YouTube feed) and a presumably smaller media presence. Don Sweeney did apologize for the timing then gave one of his Arnie Becker-isms about PR and answering questions and lost me yet again in his typically wordy retort. So while I don’t think delaying the firing for another day out of deference to a parade was necessary (Cassidy needs to start at some point), the Bs could have simply pushed the presser back a few hours so they didn’t look like total worms. Alas.
Of course, if the Bs did this a couple weeks ago, none of this is an issue. Nobody is calling them “cowards” this morning. Maybe the front office didn’t want to look like it was reacting to local media outlets (it does always feel like they’re waiting the media out though). I can never tell with this team. But I can tell you that people are a lot more pissed at the Boston Bruins today than they were yesterday.
I know the Bruins aren’t going find, all together now, a better coach than Claude. But given the plethora of slow starts and emotional detachment we’ve seen from this team all too often, not to mention the very real phenomenon of pro players finally tuning their coach out, there just might be a better coach for this team right now than Claude. Of course, Cassidy is going to have the same not-ready-for-prime-time roster that Claude had so I’m not holding my breath. But he gets a clean slate to show what he can do and maybe he knows buttons to push that Claude didn’t. We’ll find out soon.
On a personal level as a media member, I do want to say that Claude was always a beacon of class and integrity in my limited dealings with him. He is how every professional coach should be and will have a new job very soon, perhaps joining former Bs PR man Eric Tosi in Las Vegas (stick tap to @bruinsbeer ). I know he rubbed people the wrong way here for the silliest of reasons but he came here with an iffy professional reputation (after mutinous rumors in NJ) and leaves the winningest coach of an Original Six franchise. He won one Cup, nearly another, a Presidents’ Trophy, and a Jack Adams. Every Bruins coaching hire should be so fruitful.
As a longtime Bruins fan, thanks for everything Claude. You made it fun to be a Bruins fan again and brought us a Cup, we’ll be forever grateful.