Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Habs already terming Julien 'a superstar', which may be a bit much

Haggerty: Habs already terming Julien 'a superstar', which may be a bit much

The second Claude Julien era officially gets underway in Montreal with both GM Marc Bergevin and Julien himself addressing the media on Wednesday about his hiring just a week after he was fired by the Bruins.

Bergevin termed the 54-year-old Julien “a superstar” in the coaching ranks who the Habs were obviously tickled to be able to put behind the bench and replace outgoing coach Michel Therrien after he was kicked to the curb on Tuesday.

“Claude brings credibility, experience, and is a proven Stanley Cup winner,” said Bergevin, who perhaps strained credibility a bit when he stated he didn’t make his decision based on the timing of the Black and Gold relieving Julien of his duties last week. “It wasn't an easy decision, but I've always said I would do what's best for the club.”

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There’s little doubt that Julien is a very good hockey coach. That’s backed up by the 419 regular season wins for the Bruins the past 10 years along with the 2011 Stanley Cup title and seven consecutive playoff appearances. He brought defensive structure to a floundering organization and paid attention to detail and discipline while demanding a great deal from his players in terms of two-way play and defensive responsibility.

He's the best Bruins coach of my lifetime and arguably the best coach that the franchise ever enjoyed in their long and illustrious history. 

But do “superstar” coaches miss the Stanley Cup playoffs three years in a row as Julien had the Bruins poised to do as they limped through January and February prior to the coaching change? Surely, the roster wasn’t as talented now as it was in the two trips to the Cup Finals in 2011 and 2013, but it was stunning to watch the Bruins go from President’s Trophy winners to DNQs for the playoffs the next two seasons.

Those two B’s campaigns were characterized by a lessened roster due to a mostly barren prospect cupboard, cap problems and some very questionable, if not downright nonsensical, moves by the front office. But they were also shrouded in underachieving teams that collapsed down the stretch each of the past two seasons, and a recurring failure to play consistently or be ready to play an alarming number of times in each of those seasons.

There is plenty of blame to go around on what befell the B’s over the past three years. Management, coaches and players all play a part in the degradation of the franchise from legit contenders to mostly pretenders. However, they were still talented enough to make the playoffs each of the past three seasons with a number of gifted holdovers from the Bruins teams that made it to the Cup Finals. Julien couldn’t help guide, coax and cajole the remaining talent to get there. Meanwhile, the first three games under Bruce Cassidy have been eye-opening to the possibilities of what an aggressive, up-tempo and offensively assertive system could do to unlock the talent within the Black and Gold.

So, while Julien is a good hockey coach and a classy human being off the ice who deserves to have everything he may get in Montreal as he takes over a first-place team late in the season, let’s not turn him into the second coming of Scotty Bowman after the fact either.

Julien was never able to maximize the elite talent within players such as Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton as high-end lottery draft picks. That all played a part in their early playoff exits for the Original Six franchise. Some even said that Julien's conservative coaching ways were part of the reason Jimmy Vesey veered away from the Bruins when he was mulling over his NHL options this summer. 

The bottom line is that “superstar” coaches maximize the talent on their roster in all instances and get the most out of their best players. That wasn’t happening anymore in Boston with a young, skilled group that didn’t really jive with the conservative, controlled system that Julien prefers when the going gets tough. 
 

Morning Skate: Coach sees 100-point season from Flames

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Morning Skate: Coach sees 100-point season from Flames

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while very, very proud of the city of Boston today.

*Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan thinks that the Flames can be a 100-point club this season as they continue to build with youth and skill.

*Brendan Kelly thinks the Montreal Canadiens are dead wrong for building their roster around All-World goalie Carey Price. Are they wrong? I don’t know about that. They certainly have the right coach if they want to play from the goalie on out every night.

*It is officially David Krejci number of days until the NHL regular season begins and I absolutely can’t wait for it to get going.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Ron Francis hoping that the Hurricanes can live up to the hype after a flurry of offseason moves.

*Jack Eichel says that he wants to be in Buffalo when they start winning. So he plans on staying in Buffalo for a while then, eh?

*The New Jersey Devils are one of those teams that seem to be in the mix for everyone these days, including outgoing NCAA defenseman Will Butcher. 

*For something completely different: If you haven’t already, please help us at the NBC family to #CleartheShelters today. My two rescue black labs thank you!

 

 
 

Haggerty: Bruins' only choice is signing Pastrnak rather than trading him

Haggerty: Bruins' only choice is signing Pastrnak rather than trading him

At this point in the negotiations between David Pastrnak and the Bruins, it should be painstakingly clear that there will be no easy option for the Black and Gold. 

Months ago, the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp discussed a deal in the neighborhood of six years and $36 million, as first reported by CSN New England, but that ship sailed when Connor McDavid, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen and Leon Draisaitl all signed massive contracts as young, restricted free agents in a summer where elite young players saw their market go way, way up.

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So, the Bruins will need to step up and find some sort of middle ground on a long-term deal between $6 million per season and the $8.5 million per season that Draisaitl received, or they’ll need to somehow get Pastrnak’s camp to agree on a shorter bridge deal that comes with all kinds of risk down the line. Either option could include a Pastrnak holdout into training camp as both sides brace for the best deal possible. That’s something that would begin to impact this year’s team in a negative way.

The other, almost unthinkable, option: A trade of another talented young player. Don Sweeney and the Bruins have already stated they don’t want to trade the 21-year-old right winger, who is coming off a 34-goal, 70-points point season, and that goes in line with everything Sweeney and Cam Neely have said since Dougie Hamilton essentially forced them to trade him away to the Calgary Flames.

Neely and Sweeney have been consistent in their message of saying the Bruins are done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league”, and everyone is on the same page evaluating Pastrnak as a massive talent. So a trade involving Pastrnak doesn’t appear on the horizon and it really shouldn’t as long as the Black and Gold think the game-breaking, young right winger wants to remain in Boston.

What would a trade of Pastrnak look like if Sweeney and the Bruins did get to the point where the nuclear option was necessary?

Felger and Mazz earlier this week floated the scenario of a Pastrnak-for-Noah Hanifin trade with the Carolina Hurricanes making a lot of practical sense for the Bruins. Certainly, the Bruins are looking for a young left-shot defenseman who could be an heir apparent to 40-year-old Zdeno Chara and the jury is way out as to whether young prospect Jakub Zboril will ever be that guy. There’s also the fact that acquiring Hanifin would allow Sweeney to go full circle after he tried to trade up to nab the former Boston College D-man in the 2015 draft, in which the Bruins made three consecutive selections in the middle of the first round.

But let’s be honest here. The 20-year-old Hanifin hasn’t quite developed in Carolina as many projected when he was a lottery pick for the Hurricanes. He wasn’t even a top-four defenseman for most of the year in Carolina while falling short of 18 minutes of ice time per game, and he was a team-worst minus-19 in 81 games for the Hurricanes.

If the Bruins ever actually did trade Pastrnak, they’d need to get the same kind of elite, young player in return. It’s clear Hanifin isn’t anywhere close to the level of a player who busted out for 34 goals and 70 points last season. A deal that would make more sense for the Bruins would be another member of the 2015 draft class in Columbus, D-man Zach Werenski, but there’s no way the Blue Jackets would deal a player that looks like a Norris Trophy contender for the next 10 plus years. That’s the rub with potentially dealing Pastrnak and what puts the Black and Gold into such a difficult spot.

If the Bruins did indeed trade a young, star player for another team’s top young player, they are going to have to show the player they bring in the money just like they’re eventually going to have to pay Pastrnak. And another team isn’t going to trade away their young star if they’ve already got him locked up in a reasonable long-term contract.

The bottom line with No. 88 is that he’s the perfect fit for the speedier, skilled philosophy that the Bruins are emphasizing these days and that the B’s don’t have anything else in their organization that’s even close to his game-breaking, electric ability. 

The best possible solution for Sweeney remains figuring out a way to close a deal with Pastrnak on a contract that will keep him happy and productive in Boston, and in doing so avoiding another futile repeat of the Original Six organization’s handling of Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton over the past 10 years.