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Bruins owner says Claude Julien firing was 'overdue'

Jeremy Jacobs happy with direction of Boston after midseason coaching change, playoff berth

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- At some point, the Boston Bruins ran out of patience. They valued the contributions of coach Claude Julien over a decade, including two trips to the Stanley Cup Final and one Stanley Cup win, but it was time. 

Or, as owner Jeremy Jacobs said at the Bruins' season-ending press conference Tuesday, Julien's firing on Feb. 7 was overdue, though he added that he had not held back general manager Don Sweeney from making the change.

"The decision was very much made here in Boston, the leadership here," Jacobs said. "My own impression, it was overdue. We were a little late. Maybe I precipitated part of that in having misplaced loyalty in that sense, but it was the right move."

The Bruins replaced Julien with assistant Bruce Cassidy, who went 18-8-1 to get them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On April 26, the Bruins and Sweeney announced Cassidy would remain coach.

"When I say overdue," Jacobs said later, "probably, as I said, I think I have a false sense of loyalty there. I think we gave Claude a lot of leeway. He didn't produce, so it's time to move on."

Video: E.J. Hradek talks Bruins firing coach Claude Julien

There was a sense that 10 years had been long enough for Julien, especially after he and the Bruins failed to make the playoffs in either of the prior two seasons. Instead of waiting out the rest of 2016-17, the Bruins determined it was time to make the move in February, time to start the moving on process.

And, clearly, it worked. 

"Coaches have a definite [shelf] life it seems to be," said Jacobs about Julien, who was hired as Montreal Canadiens coach on Feb. 14. "He'd been the longest-serving coach and he'd spent a good bit of his career with us and hopefully he does well in Montreal."

Jacobs lauded the move, highlighting the record under Cassidy, one that allowed the Bruins to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2014, even though they were out in six games in their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Ottawa Senators. 

But none of the Bruins management said definitively that the move should have been made earlier, that they had erred in not doing it weeks or months before in the season or, for instance, during the 2016 offseason after the Bruins failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season. 

Video: Chatting with Joe Haggerty about the Bruins' outlook

"You could always look at things like that, whether it's that particular move or trades or signings or players you may have passed up on in the [NHL] Draft because you liked somebody else differently," Bruins president Cam Neely said. 

"I felt it was going to be better [after the coaching change]. Did I expect the run we went on? No. I don't think anybody really did. But the environment, the way we were practicing, changed dramatically right from the next day."

Perhaps it was the message getting stale, the lack of new blood or new ideas or new methods. 

"Claude, he's a fantastic coach, had a lot of success, but I think you're talking 10 years, and a lot of players, similar players, you're talking 82-plus games a year with the same voice," Neely said. "I think regardless of how good a coach someone is, at some point it's not like 16 games a year. … It's not so much about his ability to coach. I think it was just from what the pulse was, what Don was telling me was maybe it was just time. 

"Fortunately things worked out, and Bruce was a good call."

Still, the end of the season wasn't what the Bruins wanted, nor was it what they have come to expect. There are eight teams left playing in the postseason and the Bruins are not one of them.

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