Just a few months ago, the Boston Bruins were sitting atop the Atlantic Conference, and Claude Julien was getting Coach of the Year consideration. However, we all know the direction this team has gone since then, and it has not been fun to watch.
The Bruins are now outside the playoff picture, tied with Detroit at 91 points (Detroit has 1 game in hand), which is good enough for a 9 seed. The big question now is who is to blame and who deserves the criticism.
It's easy to look at this team and pick one scapegoat; Claude isn't using the players correctly, or Tuukka isn't worth $7 million a year. The truth is that there is no one person to blame for this team's impending collapse.
However, there are those across New England and the country who think Claude gets an automatic pass from the lack of performance as of late. While I don't believe he is high on the list of Bruins problems, he should not come out of this season unscathed.
With a massive 2 points on the line, the Bruins went to a shootout against the Carolina Hurricanes last night. Given that the Bruins offense has been very productive this year, the lineup for the shootout should be an easy call for a coach. However, Claude elected to use Torey Krug, a defenseman who hasn't scored since December, before his 36 goal scorer in Brad Marchand.
Claude was asked about the decision to sit Marchand, and his response was one single word. "Hindsight". That's the answer of a coach that knows he was wrong, and does not want to admit it or talk about it.
Julien went on to say that they chose the lineup according to goalie tendencies, and that Krug was a better fit. That statement also doesn't rationalize the decision; why not just tell the better goal scorer what the goalie's tendencies are? Marchand is capable, certainly more than Krug, of going high glove side if the goalie tends to lean the other way. With your season on the line, you don't go with tendencies, you go with the player that gives you the best chance to put the puck in the net. In this case, it was Brad Marchand.
If the Bruins are in first place and Julien is getting mentions for Coach of the Year, then it goes both ways when the Bruins are playing themselves out of the playoffs. As I said before, he's not high on the list of problems, and he is a great coach, but he certainly does not get a free pass if they don't make the postseason.
By Matt Watts