The Bruins have struggled this season, there's no doubt of that. Losing seven of the last ten games and with a PP and PK that's bottom-five in the NHL, there are major issues with this rosters' current performance, that can't be denied.
As we go through the holidays, the thought of firing coaches and discussing job prospects probably isn't exactly in the spirit of "goodwill to all men" that one would expect at this time of year. But the Bruins struggles have once again raised discussion in some quarters about Claude Julien's position as head coach in Boston, with the whispers growing that the team need the "jolt" that firing the coach might provide.
While it's fair to say that the B's have not achieved as much as many in New England would be happy with this season, they still sit (just) in a playoff place in the East, 3rd in the Atlantic Division, which is probably about what could be hoped for in a transitional season.
This is even more impressive when you look at what Claude Julien has been given to work with. He has a defence that is still relying on the slowly-crumbling weathered rock that is Zdeno Chara, and a forward group built by an organisation that seems to prize grit over skill with stars like Patrice Bergeron being expected to carry a far bigger load than is perhaps fair.
This is a Bruins team with few goalscorers. Patrice Bergeron isn't scoring. David Krejci is making his contract look more and more like an anchor with every passing month. David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask are at times holding this team together at either end of the ice when it comes to production.
Rask in particular is playing out of his mind. The Finn is 2nd in the league in shutouts, 3rd in the league in GAA, fifth in wins and sixth in Sv%. Defensively, even with the struggles, this Bruins defence has given up 911 shots all season, which is 57 LESS than the league-leading Blue Jackets have given up while Sergei Bobrovsky is in net.
In fact, it could be argued that the Bruins are doing a lot right this season. What they're doing wrong, however, is having a major effect on their performance...after all, you can't win games if you don't score goals. The B's simply haven't been scoring enough. They are, in fact, shooting the worst in the league in terms of shots converted to goals - having a historically bad year. This is nothing to do with the coach. This is a combination of luck and the players.
However, they have been doing a lot of other things right and a lot of this is down to coaching. Claude Julien has admittedly been lucky with the performance of Rask and Pastrnak, but the fact that the B's remain in a playoff spot with half of their team underperforming is in no small part down to his efforts.
Then, of course, there is the fact that the "fire the coach to bring a team a spark" narrative is a historically bad, lazy narrative, usually found by journalists who simply can't be bothered or aren't able to look beyond the most superficial solution to a problem. While it can't be denied that systems change and some players fit better into some systems than others, let's not forget here that we're talking about a coach who is among the winningest in NHL history - a coach who's taken his team to the Stanley Cup finals in two of the last six seasons and won one of them - with a team that, realistically, was never favoured to win the Cup by many.
A coach who in the past few years has seen the new front office systematically strip away some of his best assets and replace them with questionable contracts on aging players. A coach who has had to guide a team through the beginnings of a major transitional period the past year or two with a front office who is simply unwilling or unable to fix the most glaring problems he has. A coach who has taken all this and dealt with it quietly, calmly and professionally despite the kind of criticism and constant attacks from sections of a local media that will rail against a team's poor performance while simultaneously recommending "remedies" like re-signing Greg Campbell.
Claude Julien is not the problem in Boston. In fact, it could be argued that faced with a team with historically bad shooting percentage, a cupboard bare of real established NHL defensive quality (beyond a few notable exceptions) and star players who for whatever reason are simply not performing this season as expected, Julien is overperforming this season.
But this is the trouble with sports. At the end of the day, the coaches are the people who the spotlight turns to when a team isn't performing. Sometimes it's justified, sometimes not.
In Boston's case, Claude Julien is being expected to win a high-stakes poker game while only being dealt bad cards out of a loaded deck, and then being blamed for losing hands rather than being feted for remaining in the game and somehow keeping himself a decent chip-stack by people who, for some reason, think that changing the player at the table will automatically see Boston given aces.
That's not how poker works. It's not how the NHL works. Whoever sits at the table will have to play the same hand, and right now, Claude Julien is playing the hand he's given as well as he possibly can.
It's not as if there are any world-class players out there, either. The coach market in the NHL right now is filled with coaches who aren't in the NHL for a reason. More often than not, that reason is to do with them not being good enough while often being given far more chance to succeed than Julien currently has.
To fire him right now would be the Bruins making a huge mistake in the name of some mythical jolt that more often than not never happens beyond the usual "dead-cat bounce" of a new team desperately trying to impress its coach. If it was a real thing, teams would be firing their coaches every other week...except they don't because that is a stupid thing to do.
It would be a move motivated by panic. And panic never got anyone anywhere good. Panicking got Tyler Seguin traded. Panicking got Dougie Hamilton traded. Both of these trades came at least in part after exactly the same sort of media speculation and "team needing a jolt" talk that's beginning to flow right now.
In the case of the Bruins right now, the front office panicking would be the worst thing they could possibly do.