NHLN Notebook: The Bruins look lost, Claude Julien Fired, Islanders on the rise under Doug Weight


The Boston Bruins fired head coach Claude Julien and did so in a way that made the organization look as classless as possible. On the other side of that coin, the Islanders have gone on fire since firing Jack Capuano and replacing him with Doug Weight. 

Boston Bruins fire Claude Julien, and everything about it seems very wrong

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It seems like it’s been a long time coming — largely because the organization’s front office seems to be confused about the direction of the team — but the Boston Bruins have fired head coach Claude Julien. He started coaching the Bruins in 2007-08, led them to seven-straight playoff appearances, a Stanley Cup Championship in the middle, and a 419-246-94 record. 

It’s difficult to blame Julien for the success, or, well, lack of success the Bruins have seen recently. This season, they rank at the top of the league in shot attempt differential, but are dead last in shooting percentage and have a save percentage that isn’t much better. I mean, sure, at some point you have to get some results, and you can’t only blame percentages, but the front office hasn’t exactly made it easy on him. 

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This is a front office that’s gone from rebuilding an aging and expensive team left behind from Peter Chiarelli’s glory days, to making a push for the playoffs, to apparently rebuilding again, with questionable decision after questionable decision sprinkled in. On one hand, you have Don Sweeney trading Milan Lucic for draft picks, but on the other, you have him keeping Loui Eriksson beyond the trade deadline and letting him walk for nothing as a free agent. You also have Sweeney dumping a young, top pairing defenceman for draft picks, but spending a combined $5 million on depth defencemen. 

This season, the Bruins threw a team at Julien that really had no prayer of being much more than a bubble team. Rookie Brendan Carlo was thrusted on to the team’s top pair next to Zdeno Chara because there weren’t other options, there isn’t a backup goalie to give Tuukka Rask a break, and the depth up front is nonexistent. 

The thing about this that feels so wrong, though, is the timing. Like I said before, eventually you need results. Julien wasn’t getting them, the team is more than likely going to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, and despite the front office being confused as to what the team’s goal is, they decided to move in a new direction. 

But they announced Julien’s firing the morning that the New England Patriots were celebrating Sunday’s Super Bowl victory. The team hasn’t played since Saturday’s frustrating 6-5 loss to the Maple Leafs. Julien was just three games away from coaching his 1000th game in the NHL.

It seems the organization saw an opportunity to make a change and let it slide by under the radar. Surely anybody who’s paying attention can see the Bruins are underachieving their underlying numbers, and that, even then, are doing about as well as you’d expect a roster of this calibre to do. There are certainly many questions that need to be asked. Like what direction the team is going, to what extent Sweeney himself is to blame, and so on. But with Boston media focused entirely on the Patriots, the Bruins capitalized on a chance to shove Julien out the back door while nobody was watching. 

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That’s a very, very unprofessional way to handle arguably the best coach in your franchise history — An individual who led the team to it’s first Stanley Cup and period of sustained success in 40 years. 

Travis Konecny out four-to-six weeks with lower body injury

After being questionably healthy scratched in back-to-back games, Travis Konecny was injured in the second period of Monday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. Konecny has had a solid rookie season, posting 22 points through 55 games. Despite his solid-but-not-incredible production, when Konecny is on the ice, the Flyers tend to drive play more. His size and speed open the ice up for his linemates, and as a result, most of the players he’s played with this season have seen a spike in shot attempts for per hour when on the ice with him. 

This is obviously a pretty decent blow for a Flyers team who was already struggling immensely. Since going on that big 10-game winning streak before New Year’s that vaulted them up the standings, the Flyers have gone on to win only seven of 23 games. That cold spell has them shoved down in the second Wild Card, only one point ahead of the Boston Bruins, and three points ahead of the surging Islanders. 

It’s difficult to say what this means for the Flyers moving forward. If they view themselves as a legit playoff contender, or, well, anything more than a team who can slide in and get domed in the first round, they’ll likely have to buy at the deadline to fill Konecny’s absence. Looking up and down the roster, it’s pretty clear this isn’t a group worth selling futures to make a run with. Regardless, it’s an unfortunate twist to what had been an excellent rookie season. 

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But speaking of the Islanders…

Since firing Jack Capuano and replacing him with rookie head coach Doug Weight, the Islanders have completely turned their season around. Under Weight (lol), they’re 6-1-2 and have quickly jumped up the Eastern Conference standings into the playoff picture. 

It isn’t all that surprising that the Islanders play has improved since the coaching change. For years, even during their two playoff appearances, Capuano had been criticized for in-game strategy, poor special teams, and odd line construction. The team, though it isn’t amazing by any stretch, was certainly underachieving over the first half of the season. 

This surge could possibly see the Islanders out as sellers come deadline time, which would make the already tiny list of teams looking to fire off assets even smaller. At this point, only Arizona and Colorado are completely out of it. Obviously there aren’t many teams in that bottom-middle pack that are actually good, but owners and front offices will certainly be enticed with the idea of a playoff run. 

I mean, if you’re the Islanders, and you’ve won one playoff series in two-and-a-half decades and you’re struggling mightily with attendance, surely you’ll want to make a push for the playoffs, even if it just adds five or six games to your schedule. 

Again with the Islanders, Jaroslav Halak has been killing it in the minors since clearing waivers at the end of January. It’s not like he had been that bad at the end level, either, so it isn’t surprising that there might be some interest. That said, he just cleared waivers, as I mentioned, a little over a month ago. It’s difficult to imagine that an NHL GM suddenly carries a different opinion of Halak based on a month’s of solid work in the farm league. 

Halak carries a $4.5 million cap hit for one more season. I’m guessing that teams may be interested in acquiring him if the Islanders eat some salary. He can certainly be a valuable piece on a team as a 1B or backup goaltender, but you simply can’t be paying $4.5 million for that kind of player, especially with the cap remaining flat next season. But who knows. Dreger didn’t even phrase this as there being teams interested, he just brought it up as a fun fact. So there’s a decent chance interest is non-existent as it appeared to be one month ago. 

The Sens and their ridiculous asking price for Curtis Lazar

That’s uh… That’s something. 

Curtis Lazar’s already fairly forgettable start to his NHL career has taken a serious dive for the worse this season. After posting a decent-but-nothing-special 20 points in 76 games last year as a 20-year-old with the Sens, Lazar has produced absolutely nothing this year. He has only one point, zero goals, though 29 games, and has bounced in and out of the lineup. His possession numbers indicate that he isn’t on the verge of turning it around any time, either, as his -11.4 Relative Corsi For percentage ranks right towards the bottom of the league in terms of qualifying forwards. 

I don’t really see why anybody would give up anything of value for Lazar. Even a struggling first round pick for a struggling first round pick deal seems unlikely. A first round pick, though? What? 

And some Brent Burns hype

Because damn! That’s incredible. Burns is having a Norris calibre season, and the Sharks certainly aren’t looking dumb for locking him up to a massive eight-year, $64 million deal. Because what does a point-per-game, offence driving, near-league-leader-in-shots wizard defenceman get on the open market these days? 

  • @Hallsy4

    How long is Todd’s contract? Any chance Chia and Julien team up again? I think I like the job that Todd has done, and would be indifferent to a swap of coaches, assuming the Oilers make the playoffs this season. Where were all of these coaches out of work when Eakins was hired? I guess the Oilers already had the pick of the litter with Kruger and chose Mr. Dallas instead. Mac T is a genious, he had a feeling the McDavid lottery balls would fall in his favor if they only did as bad as possible, and Kruger was screwing that up.

    • Jay (not J)

      Was it all an act? Nikitin’s worth 4M/a. ‘If you have to ask the question…’ re: Dubnyk. Running a good coach out of town in favour of a guy that wants to invent hockey. I dunno. I still sit back and ask the ceiling ‘was MacT incompetent or was it all an elaborate pantomime to bring in McDavid?’ The answer that the ceiling gives me is that if MacT could have staged such an elaborate deception, he could have turned a team with Hall, RNH, Eberle, Jultz et al into a team that could compete in the West without tanking 2 years to get the golden ticket. Hard to look at giving Kruger the door in favour of Eakins though and not shake your head and sigh.

  • Randaman

    Cam Neely was a great player but his ego is causing great damage to a once great franchise. His owner is blinded by fandom just like Katz was with 6 Rings

  • “Capuano had been criticized for in-game strategy, poor special teams, and odd line construction.”

    Replace “Capuano” with “Desjardins” and you have the Canucks. Replace Desjardins with Julien and we have a shot at being good for a change.

      • Is Pitlick comparable though?

        When Lazar had 13-14 mins in the last two seasons, he had 35 points over 143 games. About 0.24 PPG. Now he’s getting about half those minutes.

        Sure, Pitlick has 11 points over 31 games with marginally more minutes (10 mins) but is the number of games played this year significant? Past two seasons, Pitlick had 3 points over 27 games (9-12 mins per game). Also remember that you guys have Connor McJesus, I think he has a tendency to make teams collectively better.

  • Looch#27

    I’d take Julien over TM in a heartbeat but this team needs continuity mostly because of the hiring of Dallas Eakins. I’m more then a little concerned that our two best centres are still playing on the same line. TM is a pretty good coach but this line stacking thing never got the Sharks anywhere either. 3 lines pushing the play should be the goal and with Connor, Leon and Nuge we can do this but I haven’t seen any sign of that. Now I’m just an armchair coach/GM but after watching Pitt win the cup with Kessel playing third line then looking at our roster I’m thinking yeah baby we can do this!!! Alas we watch TM muck around, got Lucic playing with rookies, Nuge and Eb’s still struggling and Poo is a complete disaster. I love that we’re making strides as a team and we final seem to be finding a team identity but have nagging questions about line combos and player usage. Put my man Lucic with a scoring centre like Leon and watch his production increase, put Nuge and Eb’s down to third line and watch them rip up other teams bottom lines. As the oil continues it bruinization it appears the bruins are going old Oilers with that front office combo. Good luck Mr Julien to bad about the timing because you’d look great standing behind our bench.

  • Valar Morghulis

    That tweet from Bruce Arthur: 1st in corsi and last in shooting and save percentage.

    I’ve never paid any attention to corsi, but that right there tells me what a useless stat that is.