Claude Julien is still employed. At least, as of 10:35 am. Whether or not the tenured Bruins head coach remains is a mystery. An even bigger mystery is why he’d be relinquished from his head coaching duties in the first place.
Motivation to fire Julien stems from the teams wildly inconsistently play, too often following strong showings with lackluster, uninspired efforts. Boston’s inability to find themselves ready and raring to go isn’t a fault of their balding head coach. It is, in fact, a reflection of the players — a group seemingly unwilling to snap out of whatever funk they’ve been in for the past 3 seasons.
David Krejci isn’t a fan of his ever-changing linemates. Chemistry, as he explains, isn’t something that can be learned. Some players gel; some don’t. Regardless, when you carry a $7.25 million cap hit there needs to be production. Krejci spent last season with a lengthy rotation of wingers and still managed to produce 63 points in 72 games. This season, his production has dipped to 29 points in 48 games — on pace for 50 points, the lowest full-season total of his career.
Perhaps Krejci is mailing it in. After last season’s disappointing finish, Krejci voiced his intentions to return to his native Czech Republic when his current contract expires. At 30, and now a father, maybe the fire’s starting to fade.
Or, perhaps, after his second hip surgery, he’s not the player he once was. This seems more likely, given the fact Krejci has never struck one as the type of player to dog it. There are nights he’s invisible on the ice — the bi-product of age and multiple hip surgeries — and, on these nights, Boston’s product tends to suffer.
There’s David Backes, the teams prized offseason acquisition, who rumbles around the ice, hitting opponents into the boards for the hefty price of $6 million per season. He’s contributing at a 40-point, 20-goal pace, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is his contract, which extends into his late-30’s and has effectively punted any salary cap flexibility the Bruins had off a cliff.
Patrice Bergeron is having a down year, shooting far below his career average of 10%. He’s begun to heat up in January, registering 9 points over the past 9 contests, doing everything in his power — along with Brad Marchand — to ensure the Bill from King of the Hill doppleganger, who has coached them to past successes, remains behind the bench.
Maybe Don Sweeney deserves a heavy dose of criticism. He shipped Dougie Hamilton out of town, failing to land any semblance of roster improvement in return. There was the Reilly Smith -- Jimmy Hayes swap which, honestly, hasn’t been a joyous homecoming for anyone. Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller received multi-year extensions, despite both being a carbon copy of the other. Matt Beleskey signed a cap-friendly deal, thankfully, so there’s been some reluctance to point out the 28-year-old winger has produced, when healthy, with the consistency of an indecisive obsessive-compulsive.
The Bruins, as currently constructed, are flawed. They’re repetitive on the backend, which means minutes and opportunities are limited for the glut of young defensemen in the B’s pipeline. There’s a plethora of bottom-six forwards, yet none of them can provide consistent (there’s that word again) secondary-scoring.
But, at the end of the day, maybe it’s us who deserve some of the blame. There are, after all, 32 games remaining in the season. The Bruins are the leagues best 5-on-5 squad when it comes to possession, typically symbolic of a strong team. There’s just as much a chance this group rattles off six straight wins as there is of them losing six straight. After all, that’s what makes this particular edition of the Bruins so frustrating.
They could go on a tear, led by a resurgent Krejci and a healthy Beleskey. They could just as easily crumble, firing Claude Julien and handing the reigns of a sinking ship to Bruce Cassidy, or some other coach.
Either way, collectively, everyone might want to take a deep breath and realize there’s a lot of hockey left to go. This particular group is closer to being good than they are to being bad, and that’s something we need to realize.
Let’s hope the head honchos (Charlie the horse liker, Cam the fists mcfighter and Donald the bad trader) realize it as well.