Today I’ll wrap up my deeper dive into the Black and Gold before we officially shift gear into the 2015-2016 season and Bruins training camp.
There are question marks across the all levels of the Boston Bruins organization. With camp just under way, the club is searching for a lot of answers. Not just on the ice, but in the locker room and TD Garden offices as well.
A Room Divided?
Brad Marchand’s comments this past week about “passengers” in the room last season confirmed that all was less than perfect for the Bruins players.
Marshand’s comments, to me, seemed to be aimed at former Bruins Dougie Hamilton, Riley Smith, and Milan Lucic.
It didn’t take long last year to realize Smith, (13g-40p in 81 games played) was less than completely committed physically. Coupled with his lack of production no. 18’s $3.4mil a year deal (courtesy of ousted GM Peter Chiarelli) looked bloated. Don Sweeney did well to move on from Smith and his cap hit.
Rumors surrounded emerging star Dougie Hamilton most of the year, and by the time he was dealt to Calgary, everyone around the organization seemed aware that Dougie didn’t like being a Bruin. It’s beyond obvious to say: that had to manifest itself in the room, and Hamilton’s sentiments were most probably born there as well.
Also, given Lucic’s snide remarks towards the club on his way out of Boston (see: cheap dig while leaving town), it’s not shocking that someone on the B’s roster would fire back. Leave it to the polarizing Marchand to strike out at his former teammates. Hamilton and Smith certainly appeared to play a disengaged brand of hockey by the end of last season. An impression not lost on the players who remain on the Boston roster.
Beyond team chemistry, there are differences within the Bruins organization that could surface in the form of impending doom, and result in a very tumultuous year.
Claude Julien vs. The New Look B’s
Every Bruins fan knows exactly what a Claude Julien team brings to the rink: a heavy, gritty, tough in the toughest areas, three zoned brand of hockey.
But what comes next for Claude?
I, and anyone with their finger on the pulse of this club, have spoken and written ad nauseum about the necessary changes which the Bruins must make to compete against the speedy, skilled Eastern Conference. This new direction, one that is absolutely essential, makes the retainment of coach Julien by rookie GM Sweeney a head scratcher.
Claude is still a top tier NHL coach, no doubt. And given the reigns of a club in need of defensive structure, or any team in the heavy hitting Pacific Division for that matter, Claude is a perfect fit. The Bruins as an organization, however, now seem completely unaligned philosophically with their coach’s values and systems.
There now appears to be a new 4-men up breakout scheme being installed by Julien and co. But, when the bullets start flying (to borrow a phrase from a local Boston sports radio icon), is the coach really capable of sticking to the new as opposed to the tride and true? It’s certainly a big ask, and something that could very well dictate whether or not Julien is still behind the Boston bench after the first month or two of the season.
Given the potential storm brewing around the B’s bench boss, and only a few outcomes are plausible:
-Clash and Burn
Regardless of the issues that have existed in the room, if the style of play on the ice doesn’t match what the B’s executives are looking for, Claude could be removed from his role.
-A Deaf Ear
Clearly, last season lacked an all out effort from the Bruins roster. What if Claude has lost the room? Even a little dissent among the players can make all the difference on the ice - like it did last year. If Claude doesn’t win back the full faith of his club, there’s no way he can survive the year.
-Or, A Revitalized Bunch
If the traffic jam along the wings and blue line are sorted out during training camp...and the new, more aggressive up-ice breakout system works from the first puck drop of the season (meaning everyone has and will buy into the coaching)...and Tuukka Rask looks like, well, he should...the B’s could be okay. That’s a lot of ifs. And quite frankly, with so much change going on in the organization, it’s a ton to ask. I’m not saying it’s impossible to turn things around and create momentum as the new era Bruins (see: bye bye big & bad).
Struggling to find a playoff spot or being outside the Eastern Conference’s top 8 by US Thanksgiving could be Claude Julien’s final act - and there’s anything but sure footing in the pursuit to climb back towards the top of the league.
Graeham Henderson writes The Eight Spoked Blog - follow along on twitter: @hendersonchef
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