Before the 2015-16 season began, there was uncertainty surrounding Claude Julien’s future with the Bruins, but he remained Boston’s bench boss heading into the current campaign and he’s turned this season into a record-breaking one.
With the Bruins’ 5-4 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers Monday, Julien became the winningest coach in franchise history, surpassing the legendary Art Ross by picking up win No. 388. Julien’s record-breaking victory comes in his 689th game behind the Boston bench, which is 83 fewer than Ross coached the Bruins for during his 17-years with the team.
Julien’s record-breaking win was sealed by Lee Stempniak, who rescued Boston from what could have been a head-shaking loss. The Bruins were up 3-0 early and 4-1 after the first period before surrendering three goals Panthers before regulation was through. In overtime, Stempniak, acquired at the trade deadline, went shelf for the game-winner and praised his new coach post-game.
“First off, that’s a huge accomplishment of him, so I’m really happy for him,” Stempniak told NESN’s Sarah Davis. “But he’s pretty calm. He lets the guys play. I think he’s got a veteran group here of leaders and guys who know how to play the game. He manages the system, but he sort of lets guys control it themselves, which is good. You can’t have a coach that’s too up and too down, and he kind of has that even-keeled demeanor, which helps.”
The Bruins will honor Julien with a pregame ceremony ahead of their March 24 tilt against the Panthers.
Julien has already coached in and won the most post-season games in Bruins history, so the only thing left is to become the franchise’s all-time leader in games behind the bench. That would require at least one more full season in Boston, and while that may have seemed far-fetched when Julien was brought back to begin this season, it’s hard to imagine Bruins management being unhappy with what Julien has been able to accomplish this season.
After missing the post-season in 2014-15, Julien has the Bruins right back in the mix for playoffs this campaign and has even gotten his club in position to enter the post-season as the Atlantic Division’s top seed. With 15 games remaining in their season, the Bruins are one point back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the Atlantic, and a win Tuesday night against those same Lightning would vault Boston ahead of Tampa Bay for the division’s top spot.
The Bruins aren’t really considered a top contender in the Eastern Conference, but, excluding the Washington Capitals, the East could be wide open. If the Bruins can heat up come playoff time, Julien could very well coach them to a third Stanley Cup final in his tenure in Beantown. Even without post-season success, though, there’s an argument to be made Julien deserves some consideration as coach of the year.