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The Bruins have no idea what they're doing

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Sure, the team can change coaches. But until management chooses a direction, the drifting will continue.

Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Last night’s embarrassing 6-5 shootout loss in Detroit was more of the same for the Bruins, who in recent months have been masters of finding creative ways to lose games.

Blow big leads? Sure!

Allow a last-second goal? Sounds fun!

Get their doors blown off? Hell yeah!

The loss led to louder calls from segments of the fanbase and media to fire Claude Julien.

Whether you’d agree with such a move or not, it’s not hard to see where the calls are coming from: things aren’t trending in the right direction, and someone needs to be the scapegoat.

The Bruins have been a disappointing team due to their wild inconsistency, looking like a late-May threat (let’s not go crazy and say June) one night and a lottery team the next. Up and down, up and down, day after day, week after week.

Some of this should fall on the coach, as it’s his job to get the players ready to play. Some should also fall on the players, who have turned in many a putrid effort. And some should fall on the team’s “core” players, who too often haven’t been able to step up when needed.

The true blame, however, falls on management, for one simple reason: they have absolutely no idea what they’re trying to do with this team.

The Bruins are currently stuck in a weird no man’s land between “going for it” and “rebuilding.”

The term “soft rebuild” has been thrown around, and it’s not the worst term: it implies that the team acknowledges it has fatal flaws that keep it from being a contender and is working to address those flaws.

However, it’s also a cop out, allowing management to say “hey, we’re overachieving!” if things go well and “well, we knew we weren’t there yet” if things go poorly.

It’s hard to say with confidence where this Jekyll and Hyde approach to management is coming from. The obvious answer is the Jacobs family, who want those two home playoff games to pad the family coffers.

Cam Neely is another potential suspect, as one can’t help but think he’s feeling the heat from upstairs. He’s already fired a GM; if he fires a coach, that logically leaves him next in line to answer for those failures.

By refusing to choose a path and stick to it, the Bruins are setting themselves up to be also-rans for the next few years, wasting the primes of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask’s careers in the process.

Look at some of the moves this team has made, and try to figure out if they’re going for it or reloading:

  • Trading Dougie Hamilton for futures instead of an impact roster player - future!
  • Trading Milan Lucic for futures because he wasn’t re-signing - future!
  • Keeping Loui Eriksson despite knowing he probably wasn’t re-signing - now!
  • Signing David Backes to a long-term contract - now!

The moves management has made have sent mixed messages, at times acknowledging the need to cut bait and save for the future, then switching it up and deciding to go for it.

The signing of Backes is truly the most puzzling move (no offense to Backes, who’s been fine).

The Bruins were not good enough to win anything in the spring last season, even if they did sneak into the playoffs. Their defense was fatally flawed. Everyone knew it.

So why was the solution to sign a forward in his mid-30’s to a five-year contract?!

Signing a big-name guy like Backes is the kind of move a team makes when it’s trying to push itself over the top.

For this Bruins team, however, signing Backes was never going to be what put them over the top. It also had a domino effect, pushing Ryan Spooner out of his natural position. If the Bruins truly want to develop Spooner, forcing him to play wing probably isn’t the best idea.

The problem with the franchise is that it appears management would prefer something like four straight years of “one and done” in the playoffs (though even that looks like a pipe dream at this point) instead of three years of missing the playoffs followed by a resurgent fourth that comes from truly reloading.

If management truly believes this team can compete for a Cup with a few more pieces (lol), then fine: go for it. Acquire Gabriel Landeskog. Call about Kevin Shattenkirk. Bring back Jarome Iginla for a final run.

If management believes this team doesn’t have it, start developing and selling. Decide who your “core” guys are and move the others. Give Claude a mandate to play young players and help them develop. If he doesn’t want to do that, then show him the door.

You can argue that Claude should be held responsible, as he’s been at the helm of three disappointing teams in a row. There’s no debating that last year was a debacle and that this year has been among the most frustrating in recent memory.

However, do you truly believe that Julien is underachieving with this roster? Do you think a coach like Gerard Gallant or Jack Capuano or whoever else could get more out of this bunch?

Management has given Julien a mish-mash of ingredients and seem to expect him to deliver the best dish they’ve ever tasted.

Julien has squeezed a lot of talent and plenty of points out of this flawed roster, and it’s fair to wonder if maybe he’s taken the group as far as it can go.

But a coaching change isn’t going to solve this team’s problems. The mixed signals and strange decision making live far above the ice, up on Level 9 of the Garden in the team’s management and ownership boxes.

Until management can decide on a track, hiring a new coach will just be putting a new captain in charge of a rudderless ship: he’s different, but the drifting feels the same.