BOSTON -- If the Boston Bruins are going to make changes after they missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season, those alterations won't be in the coach's office.
General manager Don Sweeney made it clear during a joint press conference at TD Garden on Thursday that Claude Julien, the winningest coach in Bruins history, will be back for a 10th season behind the bench.
"Absolutely. I emphatically believe that Claude's the coach that can take us through what I'll describe has been a bumpy transition period this year," Sweeney said. "We've got work to do; I've got work to do. There's no question that we have areas we want to address and collectively we've already started to assess that. We did throughout the course of the year and we've tried to address some of those things, and we're going to continue to address them."
The Bruins went 42-31-9 this season and tied the Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division with 93 points, but the Red Wings qualified for the playoffs based on one more regulation/overtime victory. The Bruins needed one point against the Ottawa Senators in the regular-season finale April 9, but were defeated 6-1 at home.
One year prior, the Bruins ended their run of seven straight postseason appearances under Julien when they went 41-27-14 and missed the playoffs by two points.
Two disappointing finishes and the four days it took for Sweeney to make a public comment caused speculation about Julien's status to run rampant. Sweeney, who completed his first year as GM after several years in the organization, took several weeks before deciding to retain Julien last summer.
"I believe in Claude as a coach," Sweeney said. "Not that I didn't believe in Claude and his philosophies last year. I think [our] core principles align very well from the defensive structure of the team as well as what we see in players. And last year being new to the position, Claude was also in a position where he was with a new general manager and it took some time for us to make sure that we were working together.
"In all honesty here, that's in fairness to Claude and the success he's had. If Claude had come to me and said, 'Maybe there's a better spot for me then you can carve out your own thing,' to this day and all the way through this process, that speaks a lot about him as a person and a coach because he's never ever wavered in the fact that this is the place that he wants to be."
Julien, who is 393-223-88 with a Stanley Cup championship (2011) and two Eastern Conference championships with Boston, said he never felt as disappointed as he did after the Bruins lost to Ottawa to end the 2015-16 season. That night he went through some self-evaluation and decided he wanted to be back if Sweeney agreed rather than try to start fresh elsewhere.
"I want to be here. I want to bring this team back to where we once had it. I know there's some bumps along the way," Julien said. "I'm going to be honest with you, would it have been easier for me to go somewhere else and say, 'Oh gee, I'm going to go somewhere fresh and start?' That's not what I want. To me, this organization has been good to me. They've been loyal to me. I love this city, I love our fans, I love this 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. And I don't want to be that guy that bails just because all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road. I want to be that guy that perseveres."
"It's OK to be remembered (as) the winningest coach in Bruins history, but I'd rather be remembered for a guy who had enough character to go back into the trenches and dig his heels in, and help turn this organization around versus the other way that could've been."
Julien's staff next season will have a new look. Assistant Doug Houda will not be re-signed, and assistants Joe Sacco and Doug Jarvis are no longer under contract.
Sweeney also has many roster decisions, including unrestricted free agent forward Loui Eriksson and restricted free agent defenseman Torey Krug. The Bruins have two first-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft and several prospects ready to turn pro.
"We have a very, very bright future with a number of young players that we have and recently added to our organization," Sweeney said. "It's rightfully so to be excited about that. But it's also imperative to be patient to allow them to be the types of players and hit their ceilings."