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Firing Julien may now prove tenure-defining mistake for Sweeney, Neely

In firing Claude Julien, the Bruins front office have made a mistake that may prove to be unforgivable.

NHL General Managers Media Opp Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Claude Julien is a Montreal Canadien again.

The former Bruins coach has found employment barely a week after being let go by the Bruins, and from a black-and-gold perspective it's the worst possible place he could land up...a divisional rival who also happens to be the deadliest foe the Bruins could envisage.

One of the best coaches in the NHL, and one of the Bruins' biggest assets in their organisation, has been allowed to leave for a deadly rival.

And the worst thing is, it's a situation that has been brought about not only with the Bruins' consent, but with their full help. It's a situation in which hubris and misplaced confidence have beaten logic and reason.

In any profession, allowing one of your star employees to leave is usually a mistake. Firing one of your star employees when there's a legitimate argument at times that they're the only thing stopping your incompetence from totally derailing a season is worse.

But opening the door and allowing one of your biggest rivals to come and take one of your biggest assets, based purely on a misplaced sense of confidence and a need to prove a point...many would say that's unforgivable.

The Bruins front office have practically gift-wrapped a huge coaching upgrade to their biggest rivals seemingly based on no more foundation than Don Sweeney and Cam Neely not being able to accept being challenged.

It could be argued that as soon as Julien started criticizing the skill level and makeup of the team he was desperately trying to drag into a playoff spot, he was done. Indeed, all the indications in the fallout from the firing and press conferences seem to point to a disagreement between the front office and the coach exacerbating the situation to breaking point in Boston.

Here's the thing - in saying what he did Julien was only repeating a truth that was in plain sight. The Don Sweeney Era in Boston has been characterized by questionable roster decisions and a continuation of the propensity to overvalue grit and heart when evaluating contract signings. This team was where it was this season BECAUSE of Julien, not in spite of him.

However, as soon as he challenged the front office, it appears that Julien's days were numbered. The players backing him meant nothing. The fact that even with the bare bones of a defense in which the key player is a 39-year-old whose best days are far behind him and underperforming stars Julien had STILL found a way to win games meant nothing.

The best GMs are those who listen to coaches, assess the best way they can help a team and attempt to give them the pieces to succeed. All the evidence so far has shown that the Bruins front office are not that type of GM - more the type who have a vision for the team and expect the coach to implement it for them whether or not it's the right one.

The Bruins, we are constantly being reminded, are "traditionally" expected to play a certain way and have a certain identity, whether or not the players or coach are capable of winning games doing so. In Sweeney and Neely the front office has two men who have been very vocal about how they expect the team to behave. One could be forgiven, in fact, for thinking that at times they're frustrated coaches.

One could also be forgiven for thinking that they're men who do not like to be challenged by those working for them, even when that challenge is beneficial. That's what Julien paid the price for and their willingness to respond to challenge by removing the challenger rather than attempting to adjust a flawed approach is what has led to the current state of the Bruins season - sitting on a knife-edge.

Opening the way for Montreal to talk to Julien when permission was asked could be seen, and will no doubt be defended, as a "classy move" by some - and let's be clear - that's not something that can be criticized - after all, to restrict Julien from seeking other job opportunities after firing him would have been spectacularly mean and vindictive.

What CAN be criticized, however, is the fact that Julien was available in the first place when the Habs were looking to make a change.

That is a situation brought about by little more than the Bruins front office looking to cover up their own failings and at the same time send a "strong man" message to any prospective coaches as to exactly what their place in the Don Sweeney Era Bruins is.

It's a situation that could well see the Bruins gift their biggest rivals a piece they've been crying out for for years - a truly excellent coach.

And that will come back to bite Boston many times over. You can be sure of it.