Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney defended his decision to fire coach Claude Julien, and his decision to fire him the morning of a Super Bowl championship parade.
Sweeney apologized for the timing of the announcement and his press conference, which occurred just after the New England Patriots’ championship parade started in Boston.
He defended that timing by saying that the decision would have been criticized for its scheduling had it been made over the weekend or on Monday, in the aftermath of the Patriots’ win. But just like when the Bruins fired GM Peter Chiarelli minutes after the Aaron Hernandez verdict arrived, it was obvious the team was using the parade to help dull the impact of their bombshell news, despite Sweeney’s claims to the contrary.
“I’m not trying to take away in any way, shape or form. Or deflect or try and mute the impact of my decision this morning,” said Sweeney.
As for why Julien – Boston’s all-time coaching wins leader after 10 seasons, with a 419-246-94 record – was finally fired after seemingly years on the chopping block, Sweeney seemed to indicate three main factors: That he wanted to see what his roster looked like without Julien behind the bench, that he didn’t believe Julien was the right coach for what could be a transition period for the Bruins and that philosophically he wanted to build a team that fit more with the “up-tempo offensive NHL” of today, although that of course doesn’t explain DAvid Backes.
“In moving this group forward, with an eye towards the plan we had put in place, I wasn’t ready to commit on a longer-term basis with Claude. I thought there was a frustration with wins and loses, and what he was subjected to, on a nightly basis,” said Sweeney.
“I couldn’t get past the fact that I wasn’t committed, in my own mind, to go beyond where are right night with Claude. With our organization, I don’t know if those two things lined up, as far as the level of success he’s had, with the way we were playing, the roster wasn’t a complete and finished product.
Julien had led the team to a 26-23-6 record (58 points) through 55 games this season. Sweeney indicated that the next three games before the Bruins’ bye might go a long way in determining his next steps as a buyer or seller this season.
“Are we an elite team? No. We’re a very competitive team,” he said. “I’m not splitting hairs here. There’s still a chance for this team to make the playoffs. But I’m not going to be shortsighted. I’m going to stick to the longer-term view.”
It’s a long-term plan that Sweeney had for this team, one that includes young defenseman who aren’t ready to excel in the NHL now, but will be great.
“They’re not here now. There’s not here to help us. And that’s the difficult task when bridging – the patience,” he said.
It’s a plan that includes a core of veteran players that he plans to surround with solid young talent, picking and choosing the ones that work in this third-of-a-season audition period.
“That’s part of the process — seeing how players will respond to a different voice,” said Sweeney.
And it’s a plan that doesn’t feature Claude Julien in it, despite the acknowledgement that he’s one of the best head coaches in the NHL, the best in the history of the franchise and a coach that escaped the guillotine for years until his place in the standings couldn’t save him from management that’s always dangled the blade above him.
Sweeney said he plans to rebuild around his most important Bruins.
Has anyone been more important to the Bruins than Claude Julien?
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