BOSTON – Claude Julien came to Boston ten years ago as a picture of class, character and principles while taking over as head coach of the Boston Bruins, and that never really changed through 419 wins and a glorious Stanley Cup run in 2011. That continued when he sent out a first class, thankful statement following his firing as head coach of the Black and Gold last week, and it was at the forefront again on Wednesday as he hosted his first conference call as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
Before answering any questions, he wanted to acknowledge the work done by the man he was replacing, Michel Therrien, behind the Habs bench. Julien admitted he still holds a respectful, soft spot for the Bruins team after he was unceremoniously dismissed. He watched portions of the three Bruins games following his ouster as head coach, and said he couldn’t bring himself to root against wins for the players he battled with for the last ten years.
“Any time a coach doesn’t get a chance to finish a season then there’s disappointment. [Don Sweeney] came in, and he had certain things in mind and I had to respect that. You have to respect that your boss is your boss,” said Julien. “So far who could say he didn’t make the right move with three wins in a row? Certainly it had an immediate impact. But at the same time, do I feel bad? Yeah. When you look at the things we did well: puck possession and defensively. I think we were first in all [puck possession] categories, and spent the less amount of time in our own end, and gave the least amount of shots from the slot. We had a lot of good things, but at times it seemed like we just couldn’t get it together on certain nights.
“We were starting to score, and we’d already been scoring quite a bit. I thought it was close. We can predict whatever we want. The Bruins are obviously on a pretty good roll there now, so for me it is time to move on. You don’t spend ten years here, and even watching the games, I wasn’t sitting at home hoping that they would lose. I have too much respect for all those players that had been enormous for me during my career in Boston. Having won Stanley Cups with the Bergerons, the Krejcis, the Charas and the Marchands to name a few, Tuukka was there as well. There are a lot of good people. I’d say every guy in there was a good person. I never had issues with any of them. So you sit here and you want them to succeed. Having said that, I’m with another team now and I need to succeed with that team. There’s obviously a rivalry that exists between those two organizations, and I intend to keep that rivalry going. But on the ice, not off the ice. I have too much respect for those [Bruins] players.”
Whether Julien wanted the bitter on-ice rivalry of the past to return or not to Bruins-Habs, the wick has been lit for an explosive clash, or two, after Julien immediately jumped from the Bruins to the Canadiens his week. He signed on to coach Boston’s most hated rivals for the next five years before he’d even had a chance to decompress on his bye week vacation in Vermont. Julien has already explained things are going to be deliciously heated between Boston and Montreal for years to come.
It’s the way it is always supposed to be, and now Julien will have an entire chapter all to himself after heading back to Montreal after spending a decade winning with the Black and Gold in Boston.