“I've been here for six years. I think I've been fired five times.”
That was a quote from Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien after his team clinched a berth in their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons.
His counterpart on the opposing bench, Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks, could have easily said a similar line after punching a ticket to their second Final in four seasons.
Julien and Quenneville have many things in common. They both played junior hockey for the Windsor Spitfires.
Both won a Stanley Cup with their third team. Both have faced the ire of fans during their tenures with their current teams.
But which one is better behind the bench?
You could probably say that Nathan Horton saved Julien’s job.
It was Horton’s 2011 goal in Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round that propelled the Bruins to their first Cup triumph since 1972. Coming off the historical 3-0 collapse at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers the previous spring, and a failure to get past the second round in his first three seasons in Boston, Julien likely would have been done if the Canadiens pulled off the upset.
But they didn’t and Julien's name is on the Stanley Cup. Joel Ward’s overtime goal knocked the Bruins out in the first round a year ago, but a Cup certainly does buy you a bit of time.
That time almost ran out when once again the Bruins needed a series-winning goal in a Game 7 overtime to get out of the first round. This one, however, was a little more special considering the 4-1 deficit they faced in the final ten minutes against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Quenneville had a history of never being able to take a team over the hump in the playoffs. There were five second round exits during his time in St. Louis and Colorado. He reached the Western Conference Final once with the Blues, then again in 2009 with Chicago before falling to the Detroit Red Wings.
Like Julien, Cup glory is nice, but only lasts so long. The Blackhawks were bounced in the first round in each of the past two playoffs. Those disappointments caused general manager Stan Bowman to shake up Quenneville’s coaching staff by firing assistant Mike Haviland and bringing on Jamie Kompon, who was alongside Daryl Sutter in Los Angeles during their Cup victory.
We know how the Blackhawks responded to that change: A dominant regular season that featured a 24-game point streak to start the season, a Presidents' Trophy and a deserved spot among the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award for Quenneville.
Both have won a ring with their teams and both have fought through bumps in the road during their respective tenure. It's not easy winning a Stanley Cup and having a target on your back every year, but Julien and Quenneville have kept their messages to their teams fresh and the players have responded.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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