Claude Julien is finally free. After being fired more times than the Boston Bruins have Stanley Cups during his 10-year tenure in Beantown, he probably won’t be out of work for very long considering the jobs that currently are and could be available in the near future.
“When you make these decisions, you better have a guy in line that’s better than that guy,” said Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. “There’s not many, I can tell you that.”
When a coach of Julien’s ability comes on to the market, how many general managers and owners are thinking over their current head coaching situation and asking themselves if making a move is the right call for their team? You probably need more than two hands to count.
So whose bench will Julien find himself behind next? Let’s take a look at some contenders:
Vegas Golden Knights
Once the Golden Knights officially became an NHL franchise, Julien’s name began popping up as a potential first head coach for the expansion club. General manager George McPhee was almost Julien’s boss a few years ago after interviewing for the vacant GM job with the Bruins. If Vegas wants to hire someone with experience by spring, that could give them ample time to get ahead of other teams to have a head coach in place.
New York Islanders
Doug Weight has the interim tag and who knows what the future holds for him and GM Garth Snow after Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin finish their first year as majority co-owners. The Islanders have responded in a good way since firing Jack Capuano (6-1-2) and are still in contention for a wild card spot. Snow said after Capuano got turfed that a coaching search would begin. Weight, on his first day taking over the job, wasn’t sure yet if he wanted the gig full-time.
Like Weight, Tom Rowe is the interim head coach but does double duty as GM. There’s been a lot of organizational change within the Panthers in the last year and after taking a step back this season compared to the strides they made in 2015-16, could Julien be an addition that gets them back to where they want to be? He’d be a veteran coach entering a situation with plenty of young talent coming into their own. It’d be an ideal landing spot, but there’s little reason to expect that Rowe would “un-hire” himself.
How much longer will owner Terry Pegula deal with losing from his team? The results haven’t been there and the team isn’t moving in the direction many thought it would once Dan Bylsma took over. Bylsma still has three years left on his five-year contract, so firing him to bring in Julien would be a very expensive move. That’s why it’s probably one that’s not going to happen just yet.
Jared Bednar is the head coach of the Avalanche because Patrick Roy left Joe Sakic in a pickle by quitting in August. Bednar was coming off a Calder Cup title and brought a resume of success to Colorado. Well, it’s been nothing but ugly since and you wonder just what the franchise is going to do after this season. Will Sakic be back? Will they break up the core? Will Bednar get more time behind the bench? Julien won’t turn things around overnight, but it’d be a good place to start.
If the Stars fail to make the playoffs, does GM Jim Nill make a change? He’s tried to mold the roster to his liking over the last several years, and Dallas has made the postseason twice under Lindy Ruff. But with Ruff’s contract up after this season is a new voice needed or do they just need to get their goaltending right to reach the expectations many have for them?
If we’ve learned anything from some of the head coaching changes this season it’s that goaltending will get you fired. Connor Hellebuyck, Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec haven’t done the Jets any favors this year, but as for the rest of the roster, should the Jets be better than what they’ve shown Paul Maurice? Still, there’s reason to believe that Maurice has the backing of ownership and could the Jets really outbid others for Julien?
Willie Desjardins was a favorite to become a coaching casualty this season but the Canucks have staved off a firing and are just five points out of a wild card spot. Are the playoffs realistic? It’s a long shot, but Vancouver teasing a playoff berth the rest of the way could be enough for Trevor Linden to give him more time. Then again, there is the Julien/Jim Benning connection from their Boston days.
With the opening in Boston, the Bruins could probably use someone that’s able to get the most out of a middling roster and do enough of a good job to somehow have them in contention for a playoff spot despite a very low team shooting percentage. Julien’s probably the right guy for it.
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