BOSTON – After leading the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years, coach Claude Julien is not going to let that championship affect his approach to anything.
“The one thing I can tell you is whatever way they see me as, I’ve always said that I will never change as a person,” Julien said on Sunday during a season-ending news conference four days after his team won the championship in Vancouver in a thrilling seven-game series.
“So I came up from a modest background and I’ve always tried to remain modest. I’m appreciative for everything that has happened to me in my career, more than I would have ever expected.
“I played hockey to become an NHL hockey player and played a few games in the NHL, but never became a regular. But I got a second chance at coaching. And I don’t take things for granted. You hear me say it’s a humbling game; it is a humbling game.”
The Bruins under Julien learned the hard way how humbling hockey can be over the past few seasons. From 2007-08 through 2009-10, each season ended in a Game 7 loss in either the first or second round of the playoffs.
This season, the Bruins won Game 7 of a playoff series three times, including in Cup finals.
Along the way, Julien got his players to buy into his style of play.
“I think we all believed in his system and in him and we all knew we could do it,” centre Patrice Bergeron said. “That’s why we responded every time that he was asking us to step up or to come back from adversity. I thought he deserved a lot more credit that he’s going to get.”
Over the course of four rounds of playoffs, Julien not only had to keep his players on the same page, he had to also make the right personnel decisions.
Some of his most key moves involved inserting rookie Tyler Seguin into the lineup in the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Julien also reinserted veteran forward Shawn Thornton starting in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals and paired top defencemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg together starting in Game 3 of Boston’s first-round series with Montreal.
A lot of things had to combine to make sure this year’s playoff result was different than past years.
“You do different things, and when you learn more about your team and you learn more about the experiences you’ve been through, and we talk about players going through adversity, coaches go through adversity too and they learn from those situations,” Julien said.
“But there’s certain things you can control and some you can’t. … But the one thing we were able to control this year is the fact that we had some depth and we felt we had the right players in our locker room and whenever somebody went down, we were able to move somebody else in and they did a decent job. Whenever somebody got injured and we brought somebody in, they had an impact.”
Julien also received support from owner Jeremy Jacobs.
“(In leadership) you have to be predictable. Claude is predictable,” Jacobs said. “You know how he’s going to work, you know he’s going to work hard, you know he’s going to want you to perform. That’s really, really important in leadership and it’s very important and you look forward to somebody and what they’re going to ask of you. … There’s very little ways around what Claude is about. He’s very simple, very direct, but he sure gets the job done. I can’t say enough good things about Claude.”