Claude Julien knows a good thing when he sees it.
Julien, 54, has made three stops in his NHL coaching career, but it’s clear his seven-year run with the Boston Bruins has been his best and most successful, and the one he’ll be associated with someday when his career come to an end. After all he’s made the playoffs all seven seasons while helping to turn around a Black and Gold franchise mired in the depths of despair when he arrived. He won the Jack Adams Award, given to the league's best coach, in 2008-09, and -- most importantly -- guided the team to Stanley Cup glory in 2011.
So the question was posed to Julien last week, while he was helping introduce Joe Sacco as one of his new assistant coaches, as to how long he’s going to coach the Bruins.
And even though he’s now the second-longest tenured coach in the NHL, behind only Detroit’s Mike Babcock, he intends to stay on the job for as long as possible.
“As long as I can," said Julien. "I’m not ready to retire yet. I’m still enjoying it, it’s a lot of fun. And even if you have some disappointments like we did in the playoffs, you have to look back and say, ‘Okay, we had a great season.’ [You] let yourself revved up for the next challenge, and so on and so forth.
"I may look old, but I still feel young at heart.”
There’s no doubt that, in Boston, Julien is applying things he learned in his abbreviated stints in Montreal and New Jersey, but that he's also gained a measure of self-assuredness by accomplishing so much in here. There was a time when Julien could be criticized for a conservative offensive approach, but in recent years the Bruins have posted top offensive numbers while continuing to set the standard in defense and goaltending. His open-minded approach to adapting and adjusting his coaching approach to the talent he has has been a clear hallmark in Boston. And he's been supported by players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly, who instinctively apply his philosophies on the ice.
“This is what we do as coaches. You know, we adjust,” said Julien. “We make adjustments to power plays, to our play throughout and so on and so forth. I think just because Jarome [Iginla] is gone doesn’t mean that we have to blow everything up. Maybe [it takes] a couple of players moving around to have the right format, and that may happen along the way.”
Julien clearly still has plenty of years left in his coaching career looking; after all, 63-year-old Ken Hitchcock is still showing plenty of pluck behind the St. Louis Blues bench. And the longer he stays, the closer Julien gets to lofty territory in the Boston coaching ranks. He's racked up 310 career wins since 2007-08 and sits behind only the great Art Ross (361 wins) as the all-time coaching-wins leader for the Original Six franchise.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Julien and the Bruin, but the marriage between coach and organization is as strong as it’s ever been.