Nice guy. Driven. Honest. Tough. Straight shooter. Boring (in the good sense, of course). Overachiever. And, of course, defensive-minded.
All of those descriptions fit to a “T” when it comes to Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien.
The guy is one, solid hockey guy.
Well, if what has happened the last two or three weeks continues the next two or three weeks, we may have to add another descriptive:
Best and most innovative coach in the game.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? He was a bum, almost a fired bum. Now he’s quite possibly the best.
Maybe he’s like most guys, somewhere in between. Or maybe what we’re seeing his Bruins do to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins is extra, extra special.
We’ve heard about clandestine offseason meetings two and three years ago that president Cam Neely and general manager Peter Chiarelli had with Julien to explain the need for him to get out of his comfort zone and score more goals.
Bruins fans, for four-plus decades, have become accustomed to tough, hard-hitting, physical teams, good to great goal-tending, and lots of points on the offensive end.
But Julien, who has coached here six seasons, has always pointed to those pesky stats.
Since he has been here the Bruins have finished 25th, 2nd, 29th, 8th, 2nd and 11th this season in goals scored. The numbers say he has opened up the offense.
He hasn’t budged, though, from his mantra, which states that a very good offense comes from a very-good-to-great defense.
We also seem to really like coaches with Type-A personalities who aren’t afraid to throw hockey sticks on the ice when they don’t get their way (see Harry Sinden, Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, etc.).
Julien is nothing of the sort. While he isn’t afraid to curse out a referee, he’s usually apologizing afterward.
He often talks about “respecting the game” and has a disdain for flopping on the ice.
Julien earned big points here when he said that Penguins bad boy Matt Cooke’s hit on Adam McQuaid in Game 1 deserved a penalty but was not a suspend-able offense.
Wow. I don’t agree with him, but the fact that he threw some of the blame on McQuaid, for leaving himself wide open for the hit, speaks volumes about his integrity.
We, though, shouldn’t be surprised. Julien’s Bruins played a lot like they are playing now two years ago and he was his same classy self back then, too.
If there was a valid criticism it was about his team’s lackluster play for too many chunks of this lockout-shortened season. He didn’t seem to have any answers other than call his team a “Jekyll-Hyde” group.
But his team is playing an incredible brand of playoff hockey, far better than it played during the regular season.
Look how helpless ex-New York Rangers coach John Tortorella appeared a few weeks ago and how helpless Dan Bylsma has looked the last two games compared to Julien. Maybe he really is that great.
All you have to know about Julien is that Tortorella, who appears to want to fight anything that walks and talks during the playoffs, couldn’t say enough glowing things about our coach and couldn’t understand why some guys on the radio were so rough on him.
“Guys, he’s a really good coach,” said Tortorella.
Yes he is.