Sitting in the same room where Dave Lewis was introduced as coach less than a year earlier, Julien vowed Thursday to turn mild-mannered forwards into hard-hitting forecheckers for a team that hasn’t won an NHL playoff series in eight years.
“We want to be aggressive, a physical type of team,” the Bruins’ new coach said.
Julien is the third Bruins coach in the last year and 17th person to hold the job in the last 30.
“I didn’t really look at that at all because you just have to feel confident in your abilities to do the job and I do feel that,” said Julien, fired April 2 as coach of the New Jersey Devils.
Lewis, who took over last June 29 after Mike Sullivan was fired, was let go last Friday. Julien had “the inside edge” from the start among four candidates and his deal was finalized Monday, general manager Peter Chiarelli said. He and Julien wouldn’t disclose the length or value of the contract.
Chiarelli wanted a coach who pushed his team to forecheck hard and held them accountable if they didn’t. Lewis, who didn’t do that, and Julien are both soft-spoken, pleasant men. Chiarelli, hired May 29 last year after serving as Ottawa’s assistant GM, was confident that Julien would keep after players.
“He demands that his players do what he wants to do,” Chiarelli said. “I know a lot of guys are looking for a screamer.
“He’s not, but he’s a very passionate guy and disciplined. He demands accountability. You may not see it in the media, but he demands it.”
So do the fans, especially after the Bruins missed the playoffs for the second straight season and gave up 70 more goals than they scored, the second biggest differential in the NHL. They had the third worst record in the Eastern Conference despite adding high-profile free agents Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.
They also have plenty of young players, and more getting close to the NHL at their top minor-league team in Providence, R.I. That was a major reason Chiarelli turned to Julien, a junior hockey coach for four seasons and an AHL coach for three.
“Claude has a track record of using these (young) guys and them prospering and developing,” Chiarelli said. “That was one of the factors that weighed heavily in my decision.”
The Bruins will draft some new youngsters Friday night and Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. They have the eighth pick and Chiarelli said they’re unlikely to trade for a higher one although he would consider dealing it for a lower pick if he can get a player who can help the team right away.
Julien, 47, was fired with three games left in his first regular season as coach of the Devils despite having them in first place in the Atlantic Division. General manager Lou Lamoriello, who took over, said he didn’t think Julien had the team ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Devils lost in the second round.
“You always like to finish what you started,” Julien said. “The most important thing is that you don’t look back and you move forward.”
He also coached Montreal from January 2003 until being fired in January 2006. In the 2003-04 playoffs, the Canadiens beat the Bruins in seven games after falling behind 3-1.
“The next day was when I had the biggest job to do,” Julien recalled. “That was to convince the players that we were capable of coming back.”
He and Chiarelli, 42, first met about 20 years ago during summer workouts in Ottawa when Chiarelli played for Harvard and Julien was a defenceman with the Quebec Nordiques of the NHL.
“This is not about friendship, but it’s more about being on the same page and wanting to accomplish the same things,” Julien said.
Chiarelli didn’t even have time to socialize with his new coach at a party Thursday night to unveil the new Bruins uniform. He was headed for Columbus to try to draft some players who could help the Bruins. In his 13 months as general manager, Chiarelli has fired two coaches, hired two others and added many players.
Deciding on assistant coaches will have to wait until after the draft.
“I want to get through this weekend first,” Chiarelli said with a smile. “I’m trying to jam as much stuff as possible into one year.”