WILMINGTON It can sometimes be easy to overlook the head coach in the NHL.
The job turnover rate is Zdeno Chara-high. The hours are exhaustingly long. And the credit for success can sometimes land everywhere but the coachs corner office.
Witness the Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony for the Bruins two weeks ago at TD Garden. Claude Julien and the rest of the Bs coaching staff were seemingly lost amid the Jeremy Jacobs booing, the Cam Neely one-liners, Mark Recchi pulling a fat guy in little coat episode with the Bruins Starter jacket straight out of Tommy Boy and of course the cameo appearance of the greatest player in NHL history, Bobby Orr.
Amid all that hockey hullabaloo there was nary a chance for the crowd to bathe Julien, Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis, Geoff Ward and Bob Essensa in the kind of appreciative adulation theyve earned right along in line with the players by seeing things through to a Stanley Cup victory. The Bs coaches would never say as much, but its human nature to crave a pat on the back after a job well done by fans who sometimes come down a little hard on Julien.
It was seemingly remedied two days later when the Bs coaching staff received their warm reception during team introductions at TD Garden for the 2011-12 squad, but the point still remains.
Julien finally received a little bit of recognition this weekend when he captured his 300th career NHL victory on a night when the Bruins simply cared about getting a W.
True to form, Julien didnt mention the 300 victories to his players or parade it in front of the press postgame. Insteadm he quietly smiled and accepted congratulations after the much-needed shootout win was in the bank over the Blackhawks at the United Center.
I never know about those things until people tell me, said Julien. I think I found out before the home game against the Colorado Avalanche a week ago Monday that I had a chance at it. Id actually forgotten about it before the Chicago game. Its nice. Three hundred is a very nice number."
Juliens players had no idea about the 300 wins, and many werent surprised their coach kept such a low profile as he would expect out of his players.
Its always about the team concept and group goals rather than the individual for Julien, and thats the way it seemingly always is in the selfless game of hockey.
I didnt even know it, said Brad Marchand. It speaks volumes about his career and the work that hes done. He came in here and helped turn this into a winning organization. Hes a great coach. Its always great to see coaches or players achieve milestones like that. Its great to be a part of.
It's an accomplishment Julien is proud of after finding his coaching home in Boston, following stints in Montreal and New Jersey, but he knows this is just the start of things for him. He can be criticized for being conservative offensively, for requiring young players to earn trust and ice, four rolling four lines deep into games still teetering on the edge of victory or defeat and for sometimes failing to use ice time as the effective whip-cracker it can be for a hockey coach.
But all of these criticisms arent black-and-white situations, and if Julien has shown anything over the years its the ability to adjust and adapt to the changing game. Marchand, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask have all developed into legitimate NHL players under Juliens tutelage, and it was the beat them with depth philosophy that allowed the Bs to eventually win the Stanley Cup last season.
Whereas a year ago Juliens job might have been in serious jeopardy given the altered dynamics within the Bs front office, its hard to envision any scenario where the Bruins coach could be on the hot seat now. Julien has plenty of rope to work with, and has a noticeably different confidence and ease about him since the start of this year.
Its amazing what a Stanley Cup can do for the coach as well as the players.
Im looking forward to another 300 wins," said Julien. "Thats the way I look at things. I dont know if Id call it a milestone, but its a nice feat in this league where coaching isnt an easy job to hold onto . . . and its not an easy job to stay into at the NHL. Id rather look ahead, and if I get another 300 wins it means Ive been around for quite a few more years.
With a Stanley Cup championship and Jack Adams Award on his resume in his four-plus years coaching the Bruins, Julien should be gainfully employed in Boston or elsewhere for as long as he wants whether hes rolling four lines and implementing his effective defensive system or not.
Julien should be able to nab that second set of 300 coaching victories if his heart remains into the coaching thing for the next dozen years, but its mind-boggling to see how far hes already climbed within the Bruins franchise.
Amazingly Julien is already fifth on the Bs all-time coaching win list with 181 career victories since taking over a rudderless, moribund hockey team following the infamous Dave Lewis Error, and hes still looking to build on that. He sits 24 victories behind Gerry Cheevers for fourth place all-time a spot he'll easily claim this season, barring an unforeseen disaster -- and then would have only big names Don Cherry, Milt Schmidt and Art Ross ahead of him on the Black and Gold coaching annals.
Thats more victories than Tom Johnson, Harry Sinden or Terry OReilly individually collected changing lines behind the Boston bench.
Who would have ever thought that possible when Julien took over a busted hockey franchise with newly minted GM Peter Chiarelli five years ago?
Actually, Julien probably did think of it. But he'll never crow about it, just as he didnt seek out glory for a career milestone that was certainly worth talking about.