As Patriots celebrated Super Bowl, Bruins fumbled Julien firing

  • Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney pauses during a news conference in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. The Bruins fired Stanley Cup-winning coach Claude Julien on Tuesday, with the team in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

Monitor staff
Published: 2/7/2017 10:58:48 PM

We thought Roger Goodell was the only one to misplace his invite to Tuesday’s parade in Boston celebrating the Patriots’ win in Super Bowl LI.

Apparently, Don Sweeney didn’t pencil the parade into his schedule either.

That’s it, right? 

Sweeney just didn’t realize at the time that it would be a mistake to announce the firing of 10-year Bruins head coach Claude Julien on the same morning the Patriots introduced their newest Lombardi Trophy to New England. 

Didn’t he know how foolish it would seem if the Bruins tried to hide the news behind Tom Brady and Robert Kraft with their five Super Bowl rings and Bill Belichick with his seventh?

What’s done is done. Julien is out, Bruce “Butch” Cassidy is in as interim head coach, and can’t we just move on and let the rebuild begin?

No, not yet. First, we need to talk about what happened Tuesday morning.

As Patriots fans funneled into Boston to celebrate the team’s fifth Super Bowl championship, the news of Julien’s termination streamed out. 

The parade was set to embark from Hynes Convention Center at 11 a.m. Fans at home could tune into NESN and watch every minute.

The Bruins press conference across town was set to begin at 11:30 a.m. Fans at home could tune into NESNplus and watch every minute. 

You can only pick one, and apparently the firing of a Stanley Cup winning coach is only good enough for the overflow channel. When it’s up against Brady and ring No. 5, that’s tough to argue, especially with the emotion of Sunday’s win still fresh for most.

Sweeney could have met with reporters later in the day, after the parade had ended and the Patriots took off for a night cap in Providence. 

But no. The Bruins wanted to rush this. They wanted to push this one through quietly. They wanted this buried under the confetti on Boylston Street.

Sweeney says the press conference had to happen Tuesday to avoid conflict with the team’s practice schedule. The Bruins are at home against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, their first game since the All-Star break. 

“I apologize that it fell on a day where obviously New England is incredibly excited, but I didn't make the schedule in terms of where these days would exist from a practice standpoint," Sweeney told reporters Sunday.

Okay, so it had to happen Tuesday. But moving the press conference back a few hours probably wouldn’t have cut into Cassidy’s first practice with the whistle too much.

Sweeney had an explanation for that, too. 

“The PR Department had explained that once you make a decision in that regard you need to stand up in front of people and acknowledge the reasons behind it and move on from there,” he said.

Let’s get this out of the way since I may have buried the lede a bit here. Firing Julien is not a bad move, nor is it one that fans should feel too much regret about. 

Ten years of service is more than most coaches ever see with one team, and fans will be forever thankful to Julien for coaching the 2011 Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship. Each rung of that tournament was a painful battle for the players, but Julien led them through and achieved a championship in the fashion New England fans crave: grit and will.

Julien will get a new job, and it could be soon. He is highly respected across the NHL, even though his team has missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Julien could even be back in the playoffs before the Bruins.

But it wasn’t happening here. Julien was leading this team to a third consecutive season out of playoffs. His players are talented, some very talented, but collectively they’re lost on the ice. 

The defense is in shambles (nod to Sweeney there), leaving a lot of the clean-up duty to All-Star goalie Tuukka Rask. Scoring has improved awful to mediocre. They’re in the middle of the pack statistically on offense, where they have another All-Star in Brad Marchand, currently tied for the third in the league with 55 points in as many games.

It was time for a change behind the bench, and more change should come. Sweeney should know by now that if you’re not competing for a championship like Bill Belichick, then you better be building toward one like Danny Ainge.

Only six years since Zdeno Chara lifted the Stanley Cup for Boston and the Bruins are back to being an afterthought behind the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics. 

It’s hardly wise to hide under another team’s confetti because down there, everyone can see you.

 

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)




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