The first question fielded by Sweeney from a reporter was if Julien would be returning as head coach.
Sweeney's response? “Absolutely.”
“I emphatically believe that Claude is the coach that can take us through what I’ll describe as what has been a bumpy transition period this year,” said Sweeney. “And we’ve got work to do. I have work to do.”
“There’s no question that we have areas that we want to address and collectively, we’ve already started to assess that. We did throughout the course of the year, we’ve tried to address some of those things, and we’ll continue to address them.”
Julien will be returning for his 10th season behind the Bruins bench in 2016-17.
“I believe in Claude as a coach,” said Sweeney. “I think our core principles align very well from the defensive structure of the team, as well as what we see in individual players.”
“He’s never, ever wavered in the fact that this is the place he wants to be, and he’s ridden us up to the good time, and now we’re at a lower point, and we want to go back to the point where he knows he can get us,” Sweeney continued. “And I think that speaks volumes about him as a person, first of all, and my confidence in him as a coach.”
Sweeney and Julien spent the days following Saturday’s painful season-ending loss going through the assessment process, internally looking at their own personal situations, and starting to dissect what they felt wrong throughout the season, and where the team is headed next.
On Monday, the players went through their final physicals and met with reporters. Tuesday consisted of both Sweeney and Julien conducting exit meetings with individual players.
“Claude and I met on Wednesday to go back over those, and then here we are this morning [on Thursday] and moving forward, understanding the direction this organization has to go in to get better and get us back to where we want to be,” Sweeney stated.
During that process, Julien also went through his own self-evaluation, and elaborated on that aspect of the week to reporters.
“I want to be here, I want to bring this team back to where we once had it, and I know that there’s some bumps along the way,” said Julien. “And there’s no doubt — I’m going to be honest with you, would it have been easier for me to go somewhere else and say, ‘oh geez, I’m going to go somewhere fresh and start’? That’s not what I want. To me, this organization’s been good to me, they’ve been loyal to me.”
“I love this city, I love our fans, I love just the environment here. You want to be somewhere where people are really passionate about the game and there’s a lot of people here, including players, that have helped me become the coach that I am.”
On Mar. 7, 2015, Julien became Boston’s all-time coaching wins leader in the club’s 92-year history, surpassing the legendary Art Ross with his 388th victory behind the bench.
The milestone is significant. But within Julien’s concept of where he wants the team and organization to be, it’s irrelevant for him.
“I don’t want to be that guy that bails just because all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road,” said Julien. “I want to be that guys that perseveres. And things that went through my mind — you know, it’s OK to be remembered right now to be the winningest coach in Bruins history, but I’d rather be remembered for a guy who had enough character to go back to the trenches and dig his heels in and help turn this organization around —versus the other way that could have been.”
“So I was pretty clear with Donny on that front, and it was up to Don to tell me what his thoughts were, so obviously we had very similar thoughts and it was great to hear that I had his support.”
Following Saturday’s game and during Monday’s season-end media availability with the players, nearly every Bruin was asked for thoughts about his bench boss.
“He’s been really important for us. He’s been here a really long time and we’ve done some great things together,” David Krejci had said in response. “You know, once you win with someone, then you have his back, no matter what happens.”
“I’ve said a million times that Claude has been the best coach I’ve had,” Patrice Bergeron said. “[This season] should be on us, as his system is there, the game plan is there, and it’s about us executing, and we didn’t do that, so it should fall back on the players.”
That support — from the players, and from the general manager — means a great deal to Julien.
“Well, it’s important, because that’s what makes you want to come back and that’s what makes you want to be here,” said Julien. “I think if the players weren’t responding and the general manager didn’t have the confidence in you, you wouldn’t want to be here, you know?”
“As Don mentioned, I spent time doing the self evaluation. When you go through those kind of things, you do that, and at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, I remember coming here nine years ago, with this team being in the same situation, and I told people that I was wanting to be the guy that was going to help them get to the top.”
“I don’t see any reason why I can’t do that again, and I’d love to have that opportunity, which I’m being given,” Julien continued. “You know, it’s nice to always have these great years, but every once in a while, you get those kind of challenges, and those kinds of challenges are what makes you a good coach.”
“I want to be a character person, and I want to be a character coach that wants to be here, and even if we have to go through some bumpy roads, I’m more than willing to do that, because I love this city, I love our fans, and I love the organization, so it was great to hear from those people, the support I got.”
Julien and Sweeney spent close to 40 minutes discussing the Bruins’ 2015-16 season, and the challenges that lie ahead for 2016-17, during the annual presser.
Not everything can be deduced to one quote, story, video, or tweet. There is unfortunately now plenty of time for reflection, processing and planning. But the disappointing end to the season will eventually be mixed with a renewed optimism — and Sweeney is very aware of the criticism that will also exist during this process.
“I mean, it’s a performance business, and this town’s been pretty successful in accumulating championships — and we expect to be doing the same thing,” said Sweeney. “That’s the set of standards that we know going in.”
“That’s what drives you, the passionate fanbase here. You understand the criticism’s coming. The only real way to alleviate that is to get back on top, and you’re going to be subject to it until you do.”
“You’ve just got to choose the path that’s in front of you and if it’s bumpy, then you work through the bumps,” he said.
“October’s a long way away. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I understand it’s still on me to get this group back to acquiring and assembling players that can help our current group and in support of what Claude believes in, and his philosophies as a coach.”