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After stringing together three straight wins, the Boston Bruins began this week a point ahead of the surprising Florida Panthers for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. A week ago though, it appeared the sky was falling for the Bruins. They were looking in from the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff race; trade rumors were swirling around the team, and then-new CEO of Delaware North Boston Holdings, Charlie Jacobs, decided to drop some bombs in the press conference announcing his new position with his dad’s company.
“I’d say without question this has been a very disappointing year,” Jacobs said. “It’s unacceptable the way this team has performed, given the amount of time, money, and effort that’s been spent on this team, to see it deliver the way it has is unacceptable.”
Jacobs went on to say that the entire team — including the management and coaching staff — are under evaluation and promised changes if things didn’t turn around soon.
“I can just tell you at the moment this is a very fluid situation that is being monitored very closely,” he said. “I don’t have any answers for why we’re underperforming. If I did, I would have tried to fix them long ago. We’re still evaluating where this club is at, where our shortcomings are. That’s going back to my consultative process of trying to really figure out amongst the group where we can right this ship.
“For us to be a team that’s out of the playoffs is absolutely unacceptable. And everybody in these executive offices is aware of how I feel and they feel the same way, which brings us to this evaluation process, which is fluid right now. I can’t say at any moment we have a final decision other than to say that it’s an utter disappointment and failure. Complete failure.”
Whether those comments lit a fire under the collective behinds of the Bruins players and motivated them to get their acts together over the last three games will probably never be known for sure. But one thing seems to remain a constant with the Bruins and that is every time their coach Claude Julien comes under fire from his superiors, the media, and the fans, they seem to unite and play better for him. That is why regardless of how the rest of this season goes, don’t expect any changes behind the bench for the Bruins. That’s not to say that a coaching change couldn’t occur in the offseason, but for now and until the Bruins’ 2014-15 season finishes, the coach — who led them to the Stanley Cup finals twice in the last four seasons, winning the Cup in 2011 — will remain bench boss.
“Julien isn’t the issue in Boston and really never has been when things go wrong,” one league executive told Murph’s Musings Monday morning. “Have he and others in the organization butted heads on team philosophies and systems? Yes of course. What coach and his colleagues don’t? But regardless of the different opinions that may be there, his track record speaks for itself and there isn’t a team in need of a coaching change that wouldn’t pounce on him if he became available. The truth is he won’t though and that’s because the Jacobs, [Cam] Neely and everyone there knows they’ve been hampered by injuries, the cap, and yes, their big guns underachieving. To them it’s the players that are on notice now and apparently they may finally be figuring that out.”
But even if they have figured that out, the belief is that general manager Peter Chiarelli will not pull back from his relentless pursuit of more scoring. As many reports claimed last week, Chiarelli has had constant dialogue with the Arizona Coyotes regarding Antoine Vermette. Vermette — a unrestricted free agent this summer — told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun he’d like to remain in the desert but knows that the Coyotes may have to deal him. So that’s definitely a situation Bruins fans should keep an eye on.
Another league source told Murph’s Musings that the Bruins are also monitoring what the next moves may be in Edmonton where GM Craig MacTavish has let it be known he is open for business and pretty much everyone on the Oilers is available for the right price. The same source also said to keep an eye on the Minnesota Wild and the Ottawa Senators — the latter of whom Chiarelli worked for before arriving in Boston in the summer of 2006 — who are both teams that are on the verge of becoming sellers.
Another league source said he’d be “shocked” if the Bruins decided to move Milan Lucic but he wouldn’t be surprised if the Bruins were indeed pondering the future of the rugged winger in Boston a bit because with Lucic becoming a unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, they don’t want to be trying to deal him at the 2016 trade deadline.
“Look at what happened with the Islanders waiting to trade [Thomas] Vanek and getting hardly anything in return because he was so close to free agency and let it be known he would test the market,” the source pointed out. “That’s the one thing you don’t want to happen. So no matter what, they want to go into next season knowing what they’re doing with Lucic. But I don’t see him being dealt now.”
But again, Julien bashers shouldn’t hold their breath because while to roster will likely look different after the March 2 trade deadline, the man behind the bench in Boston won’t.