WILMINGTON, Mass. – Claude Julien has always maintained that getting fired is an inevitability for an NHL head coach. And he would know since he’s been through it a couple of times -- once in Montreal and once in New Jersey.
Julien has also been in trouble during his accomplished stint in Boston, and could have been looking at another pink slip if things had gone differently for the Bruins in the playoffs.
Instead, his teams have responded when his livelihood is on the line, and it’s made him the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference.
Still, it’s understandable that the Bruins coach was complimentary of John Tortorella after the volatile former Rangers coach was axed following New York's second-round loss to the Black and Gold.
“I said it before the series started, I like Torts," Julien said. "Torts has his personality and when you respect a person for who he is -- I know he has a lot of [good] qualities. His teams made the playoffs four out of the last five years. He made it to the Conference Finals last year. He’s won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay. You know what? How could you not respect a guy like that?
“He’ll be back in the league. But do I feel for him? Sure I do, because nobody likes to lose his job, especially in that situation where you’re into the second round and you made the playoffs four out of the last five years. For some reason, it doesn’t work out. But I have all the faith in the world that he’ll be back [in the NHL] because good coaches are hard to find.”
There’s little doubt Julien is right about Tortorella -- a coach with a proven track record of turning troubled teams around -- but it’s also clear that some key Rangers players had tuned Tortorella out by the end of his time in NewYork. They weren’t blocking shots like they once did, back-checking with vigor, or risking life and limb to get to the front of the net.
It was time for a change with the Blueshirts, and in the NHL, that usually means time for a new head coach.