When the Bruins fired Claude Julien this morning, he was the Bruins’ winningest coach of all time, the current longest-tenured NHL coach, and three games from 1,000 games coached.
Julien had some amazing career highlights as a member of the Bruins’ coaching staff; we can get into whether or not his firing was a legitimate solution to the team’s current woes elsewhere (spoiler alert: it’s not) but for now, let’s celebrate some of the high points of his Bruins career.
2008: THIS BUILDING IS VIBRATING
Claude Julien came to the Bruins in the offseason before the 07-08 season, taking over from Dave Lewis, who had coached the Bruins to a last place finish in the Northeast the prior year. The team had missed the playoffs two years in a row; while injuries contributed to those losses, their play was inconsistent enough that Peter Chiarelli saw fit to hire Julien, who had recently been fired by the Devils.
In his first season as Bruins head coach, the team finished the season 20 points higher than the previous year. They finished third in the division and made the playoffs, where they ran into the red-hot Canadiens.
For the first time in a long time, though - the Bruins had some fight in them. Down in game 6, they served up this classic third period — a harbinger of things to come. (This Building Is Vibrating is at 5:48, if you want to skip ahead.)
Under Claude Julien, the Bruins dragged things to a game 7 and lost — but they were back in the playoff mix.
The 2008-2009 season, on paper, should have been the Bruins’ first Cup year.
A slew of young players came into their own under Julien’s tutelage; six players hit the fifty point plateau, and six had over 20 goals. Blake Wheeler hit 20 goals in his rookie season; Phil Kessel erupted for 36 goals in his third NHL season. Marc Savard hit 88 points. The team was only a few points off the Presidents’ trophy, they finished the season second in goals for and first in goals against.
Personally, Julien won the Jack Adams, and in just his second season with the Bruins, he hit his 200th win as an NHL head coach. A few unlucky bounces and a sucker punch ousted them from the playoffs in the second round in yet another game 7 (and overtime, this time) but within a two season timeframe, Julien had coached this team into a contender.
2009-2010: FILE NOT FOUND
Everyone has a bad year once in a while. The Bruins still made the playoffs, losing in seven to Philadelphia; sitting at the bottom of the league in goals for, though, the fact that they managed to drag themselves that far was fairly amazing. Julien did the best he could with a garbage team — when you have Daniel Paille on the first line and your starting goalie is injured for much of the season, you’re not going to get a lot done.
Injuries to Savard, Krejci, Seidenberg, and Sturm — three of whom were top points producers — certainly didn’t help.
2010-2011: SELF EXPLANATORY
In a changing climate for the NHL, when teams with speed and skill were winning Cups, Julien coached a team of slightly above-average players to the league’s ultimate prize.
The 2010-2011 Bruins were only eighth in the league in goals-for in the regular season; only one player (Milan Lucic, on a career year) hit 30 goals. But there was consistent scoring from the top to the bottom of the team, and the defense was there - from Tim Thomas in the net forward, the team ended up third in goals-against.
There were moments during this season where the Bruins looked like they were down and out. After game 2 in the first round, it looked like the Canadiens were going to take the series, having won in a dominant fashion. But the team regrouped and won the next two, and took it to a game 7 at home — and, well, we all know how the story goes from there.
The road to the Cup lead through Philly and Tampa, and game 7 against Tampa was easily the most beautiful 0-0 game anyone has ever witnessed, until Nathan Horton and David Krejci broke through. Vancouver wasn’t a cakewalk until it was, and the Bruins were suddenly on top.
2011-2012: STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM
Despite their best efforts, the Bruins could not avoid a Cup hangover in the Fall of 2011, but they snapped out of it in glorious form in November. On November 1 we were making Fail for Nail jokes; by December 1 they had 16 wins and no regulation losses in the prior month and were still several games from a regulation loss. This was the season where they beat Calgary 9-0, scored 36 goals to Toronto’s 10 over the course of six games, and regularly put up six goals on teams - so frequently, that we began to demand and celebrate the team hitting “quota” when they were close to six goals in a game.
It was a turnaround for the ages, and the Bruins went from the bottom to tied for first in the East in 42 days. Claude hit his 200th win as a Bruins coach, his 400th game as Bruins coach overall, and was selected to coach in the All Star Game. The Bruins ran into a hot goalie in the playoffs, and Julien’s record in game 7s fell to 4-4, but it was one of the most fun regular seasons of hockey in recent years, and Julien signed a contract extension in the offseason.
2013: ANOTHER RETURN TO THE FINALS
This was the one no one really expected.
The lockout-shortened season was weird for everyone, and the Bruins were no exception.
A first round against the Maple Leafs looked like it was going to go the way of most seven-game series in Bruins history, the Cup year being the exception; through tenacity the Bruins took it to the Leafs and moved into the second round. The Penguins and Rangers offered little resistance, and the Bruins only lost one game in the two playoff series combined — which meant a second Stanley Cup appearance in three years.
It did not end the way the Bruins would have liked, as they gave up third-period leads in games 1 and 6 alike; numerous injuries to their core players, including a punctured lung, played a large part in this. But a SCF appearance is still a significant accomplishment, especially in a season where no one really knew what to expect.
2013-2014: PRESIDENT’S TROPHY
The Bruins went through several stretches this season where they didn’t lose in regulation, yet again; it wasn’t the high-scoring season that 08-09 or 11-12 was - they scored more than six goals in a single game. Their defense was fantastic, though, and they finished the season at the top of the league with a 54-19-9 record and 119 points.
Julien won a gold medal with Patrice Bergeron and Team Canada in the 2014 Olympics as one of the coaches; the Bruins beat Detroit in round 1 but were unable to handle Montreal, the perpetual bane of Boston’s existence, for the first time in a game 7 since 2008.
MARCH 2016: WINNINGEST COACH
On March 7, 2016, Julien passed Art Ross as the winningest coach in Bruins history in a 5-4 OT win against the Florida Panthers.
Julien’s Bruins teams never finished a season below 90 points. While 91 was enough to eke into the playoffs in 2010, under the new system, 96 and 93 points were not the past two years. He sits at 997 games coached with a career .603 win percentage, which is good for 10th all-time among coaches with 500+ games.
The Bruins are not going to find another coach anytime soon with the record and history Julien has, and it’ll be a problem for years to come.
For now, thanks for the memories, Claude.