By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Just a week after being given his walking paper by Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney, Claude Julien is going back to where his head-coaching career began; the Montreal Canadiens. The hated Habs – who lost to the now Bruce Cassidy run B’s 4-0 on Sunday night – have been the worst team in the NHL record-wise since the calendar flipped to 2017. Their hold on first place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division is tenuous at best; they have a six-point lead on the Ottawa Senators and Bruins, but like the black and gold, they have played five more games than the Sens.
Oh, to be a fly upon the wall in the Causeway Street offices of Sweeney and team president Cam Neely on Tuesday afternoon. The defensive minded Julien takes over a team with the best goalie on the planet, which should make installing his famous system of – to quote Neely – trying to win games 0-0; and his ability to do so might just make the chore of saving their jobs all that more difficult.
Think about it, if you are Jeremy Jacobs, and you see your recently fired head coach go to your greatest rival and watch him save their season while your team comes back to earth from the sugar-high that was a coaching change, and you are on the outside looking in at the playoffs for the third-straight year, who would be in your cross hairs?
Maybe your unproductive team president and his hand-picked puppet GM? I would think most assuredly so.
This has to be the perfect scenario for Julien. Targeted as the scapegoat for a pair who has been responsible for tearing down a roster that is just four years away from being in the Stanley Cup finals, and three years away from the Presidents Trophy; he now has the opportunity – at least partially – to return the favor of being put out on the unemployment line to the duo that pushed him out of Boston.
And what version of sports Tourette Syndrome would overtake Bruins’ fans who could clearly see that the roster was – and still is – the biggest problem with their team, if Julien has a deep playoff run with a much more talent Canadiens team, while the B’s hit the golf course in April again for the third-straight season?
I mean what would be worse for those who wear black and gold glasses 24/7 than to see the all-time wins leader as a head coach for their franchise to hoist the first Stanley Cup for Montreal in almost a quarter century?
Oh, brother. What a colossal middle finger that would be for Julien to wave to the franchise he took from a dumpster fire and turned them into a group worthy of taking a duck boat tour of hockey’s Hub within four years of being named the B’s bench boss.
And imagine how horrendously awkward it will be the first time Canadiens visit TD Garden and the guy behind the Montreal bench gets a standing ovation from the Bruins crowd. It’s just too bad that we will have to wait till next fall for that to happen as there are no regular-season games left between the ancient rivals this year, and a meeting in the playoffs is not very likely.
The Bruins and Canadiens rivalry has ebbed and flowed over the years, but this hiring has the potential to take it to another level. If Claude can right the ship for le bleu-blanc-rouge – which I’d be willing to wager a mortgage payment he will – and Sweeney and Neely actually are able to implement the plan they say they have but no one has seen, the hate may go to a new height for these longtime foes.
The chances of that happening are remote; however, as the only one out of the group of the three that has proven he can perform his duties at the highest level, is the guy who was just named head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.