Julien stays the course . . . and so do the B's

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Julien stays the course . . . and so do the B's

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Dennis Seidenberg wasnt naming names, but the veteran defenseman has seen plenty of hockey coaches get rattled right before his eyes in his seven-plus seasons in the NHL.

The game situation speeds up, panic sets in, and the harried coach starts relying too heavily on a handful of players he trusts while burning out his team when things go awry around him.

That kind of unhinged phenomenon has an unavoidably negative effect on the players, and starts to tighten everybody up as things spin out of control. At the moment of truth in a playoff game, its a team's worst nightmare. And it can be a coaching staff killer.

When a coach is rattled, he makes decisions and overplays guys because of panic; he wants to put his best players out there, said Seidenberg. From there, extraordinary things start to happen and from there on it just kind of snowballs.

Some might have expected to see Claude Julien get rattled in the first round of the Bruins' playoff run this year. His job was presumed to on the line; it was fully expected that he (and perhaps general Peter Chiarelli) would be dismissed if the team had an early playoff ouster.

Yet he never panicked, not even after the Bruins lost the first two games of the series -- at home, no less -- and headed to Montreal facing elimination.

Thats why the Bs have lived to fight many other days since then.

Im sure people thought if we didnt make it past the first round then something was going to happen with the coaching staff, but winning the last two rounds has made everyone in the organization happy, said Seidenberg. I think getting past where youve ever been before gives you some confidence and gratification.

We knew we hadnt played anywhere close to as good as we could have. After the first two games everyone was thinking, Oh, God, the firings are going to happen, but the coaching staff never lost that calmness.

"It helped a lot. They always kept telling us they believed in us. It definitely helps to have a coach thats got calmness and composure getting through those situations.

A coaching staff that certainly knew its careers hung in the balance approached the rest of the series with a calm resolve that the situation would get turned around. Most importantly, Julien never once let anybody see him sweat.

That approach, and the innovative decision to bring his hockey club to Lake Placid in the middle of the Montreal series, helped settle things down, and theyve won eight of nine games since that start.

The series victories over the Canadiens and the Flyers have won some measure of job security for Julien and the other members of the staff, and high compliments from Bruins president Cam Neely. Even the woeful power play has begun producing with goals in each of their last two playoff games, and a swagger has returned to those both sitting on the bench . . . and standing behind it.

Julien tells a story of once asking Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman for advice about coaching, and the one thing that stuck with Julien was Bowmans words about adapting and changing with the game. The Bs coach has done just that after learning from failed assignments in Montreal and New Jersey prior to Boston.

Some of Juliens evolution as a coach owes a debt to the pressure exerted by Neely, who has pushed Julien to shorten his bench, open things up with the defensemen to promote scoring, and wield ice time with some level of authority when effort is a question mark.

That willingness to change with the team and the importance of preaching a consistent message to his players, in good times and bad, is one of Juliens biggest strengths, and its also the reason he was now able to lead the Bruins into the third round of the playoffs.

Some called for a punitive bag skate at the tail end of the regular season after a deflating loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, and others were simply waiting for the bottom to drop out during the playoffs. But Julien never fully cracked the whip.

His players fully appreciated the steady course of action and Juliens tacit confidence in them.

I think first of all as a coach, thats what youre hired to do: to make sure that you dont overreact and youve got to stay the course, said Julien. Youve got to make sure you stay in control. And if you do that, youre allowing your players a better balance.

Youve got to believe in yourselves once you get to this stage, and you should never panic no matter what the situation is . . . I think . . . an important lesson and message to give your players is that anything is possible. And our players obviously stayed the course, and they really took some small bites into the ensuing games.

For a young player like defenseman Adam McQuaid, going through the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time, the little things -- like reading and reacting to game situations and learning to pick his spots when it comes to introducing physicality into the game -- have been invaluable lessons learned.

Thats just old-fashioned coaching development with a young player who's improved nu leaps and bounds under Julien just as Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and so many other talented youngster have before him.

The coaching staff has given me an opportunity and thats the biggest thing, said McQuaid. Ive made my mistakes along the way, but theyve always been willing to work with me to correct things while putting me out there for other opportunities. There have been times when Julien has stuck with guys and theyve come through for him in big moments. The biggest thing to me is that the coaching staff didnt panic down 0-2 and then have it trickle down to us.

There were times when things were close and we could have really gotten stressed out, and we were able to reel things in and get focused for the game. That was one of the messages from the coaching staff, and you could see that they really believed it because of the body language.

Julien knows players are always paying attention to the tonality of the message from the coaching staff, and their all-important body language. Theyd now if their coach was simply blowing smoke.

But theres no smoke with Julien or the Bruins. Both the coaches and the players are in the exact right head space as they enter an all-important Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in two decades starting this weekend.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.

Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."

The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.

With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.

The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract. 

 

 

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

The Bruins were all around the action on Wednesday as the massive hockey trades dropped fast and furiously, but once again they were on the outside with their anticipatory faces pressed up against the glass as the top GMs in the game did their thing.

Instead, the B’s were left to mull an offer sheet to Jacob Trouba that isn’t very likely to drop on Friday and wait for the secondary defenseman market in free agency as it appears the Oilers might have snapped up Jason Demers already.

Some of the bold moves clearly may be mistakes: the Canadiens got older, slower and much more explosive in swapping out P.K. Subban for Shea Weber one-for-one, but also will be tougher to play against in some ways with Weber and Andrew Shaw now added to the mix. Clearly, GM Dave Poile once again was the right manager in the right place at the right time to land the super-talented Subban, who will pack the hockey house in Nashville and help continue a tradition of stud defensemen for the Predators organization.

One keen hockey source cautioned me when I said the Habs got worse on Wednesday: “I don’t think people understand how good Weber really is in the East. Montreal has become a lot harder to play against with him and Shaw.”

This certainly may be true, but the Bruins lost their cherished Habs villain with Subban moving to the Nashville Predators, where he will become a genuine U.S. hockey market superstar. Subban was charismatic and colorful, and played the role with the flops and the phantom embellishment that has become synonymous with Habs hockey over the years.

His personality and elite skill level won him a Norris Trophy a few years back and made him one of the biggest stars in the NHL and his absence now significantly reduces the wattage of the modern Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. That’s another blow to a storied rivalry that was flat as its been in years last season without Milan Lucic. It’s one that might have some rocky roads ahead with the Bruins very clearly in need of some roster help.

Peter Chiarelli became the first GM in NHL history to trade both the first and second overall picks in the same draft after shipping away Tyler Seguin in 2013 and then dealing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday for young, developing D-man Adam Larsson.  Essentially he traded two top-of-the-draft lottery picks for two Swedish mid-first round talents in Loui Eriksson and Larsson. That’s going to leave many questioning his decision-making process until we see the final picture this October in Edmonton.

If things don’t go very right for the Oil this season, with Larsson developing into a prime time top-pairing D-man, the heat could turned up on Chiarelli in the never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.

Once again credit a veteran GM in Ray Shero with getting exactly what his team needed in a dynamic scoring force like Hall and doing it while giving up something that hadn’t been a significant piece over the past few seasons in New Jersey. This may just be the cost of doing business for Chiarelli if Lucic and Demers are indeed on their way to the Oilers as free agents, and if the whispers are true that Edmonton might move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for defensemen help as well.

None of this even begins to mention GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, who calmly and patiently waited out the Steve Stamkos free agency sweepstakes until his star player came back to him for a massive hometown discount. Now, he has the superstar, the young and talented core group and the players from those two second-round picks the B's charitably sent along for right wing bust Brett Connolly. 

The one thing that defies explanation is the Bruins-friendly voices that say inking the 22-year-old Trouba to an offer sheet “makes no sense.” Guess what really makes no sense? That would be going into next season with close to the exact same back-end group that missed the playoff cut over the past two seasons and couldn’t break the puck out of their zone under pressure if their collective lives depended on it.

The Bruins don’t have the trade assets in their organization to match offers of players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, and they were beaten to the punch for top free agent D-men like Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski and perhaps even Demers. That “makes no sense” for a Bruins team that finished 19th in the league in goals allowed and had a blue line group that couldn’t execute simple tape-to-tape passes up the ice.  

Signing Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract extension? Signing fringe free agent D-men like John-Michael Liles? Not getting anything done with anybody in the trade or free agency market around draft weekend and July 1? That’s what really “doesn’t make sense” to me if I’m trying to cough out the Black and Gold party line right about now.

Because the NHL management groups with the big stones, the matching respect factor and the real NHL assets are making big, bold moves all across the league right now, and the Bruins are still waiting idly for their numbers to get called at the NHL deli counter. 
 

Thursday, June 30: Another view of the Trouba offer sheet

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Thursday, June 30: Another view of the Trouba offer sheet

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while waiting for Matt Martin to be the Bruins’ big prize on July 1 as the rest of the NHL is making seismic changes to their roster with big, bold moves. Hint: the Black and Gold aren’t being very bold right now.

*Interesting piece by Marc Spector on the Jacob Trouba offer sheet issue, and whether it would be worth it to land him.

*Darren Dreger weighs in on the hour that stood the NHL on its head, and saw P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall get traded within minutes of each other.

*The Taylor Hall trade is based on hope, according to Edmonton sports radio host Jason Gregor. Interesting piece from him.

*Here’s more about the Hall/Larsson swap that has many around the league wondering what the Oilers were thinking.

*P.K. Subban checks in all the way from Paris, France with a message for his Canadiens fans, and for his new fan base in Nashville.

*Here’s a Tennessee perspective on the Shea Weber/P.K. Subban swap with the Preds getting younger, faster and more explosive with one of the NHL’s biggest superstars.

*Good look at the Montreal end of things from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu with the Habs convinced they got better on Wednesday. I am not so convinced after watching a soon-to-be 31-year-old Shea Weber run out of gas in the playoffs last year.

*For something completely different: Jason Pierre-Paul debuts a 4th of July fireworks safety PSA after unfortunately blowing his fingers off with firecrackers last July.