A week after getting fired after nearly a decade as head coach of the Boston Bruins, Claude Julien has landed on his feet, being named today as head coach of Boston oldest and most bitter rival, the Montreal Canadiens, replacing Michel Therrien. To summarize, the Bruins still do not seem to have a plan going forward, and they just gave their biggest rival a coaching upgrade, looking like fools in the process. This is where we are right now.
Bruins fans could see this coming from miles away. It had long been speculated that the Bruins had held off on firing Claude in the past to block division rivals like Montreal or the Ottawa Senators from getting him. Julien has been constantly rumored to be a coaching candidate for the Habs, considering he has been their head coach before, and considering he is one of a handful of bilingual NHL head coaches. In 2011, when Randy Cunneyworth was named interim head coach of the Canadiens, the organization apologized and promised the permanent head coach (it ended up being Therrien) would be able to speak French.
This is a good move for Montreal. They are a playoff team that has struggled as of late, and perhaps a coaching change is what they think they need to kick start to put them over the top. As I mentioned last week, the Claude was fired by the Bruins, it was Michel Therrien who got fired by Pittsburgh in 2009 before they won the Stanley Cup under Dan Bylsma. The Canadiens have a great goaltender in Carey Price, and a great defensive defenseman in Shea Weber who seems like Julien’s kind of player in the tradition of Zdeno Chara, and they think this coach combined with these players could be the mix they need to win their first Stanley Cup since 1993 (the last Cup win by any Canadian team).
For Boston, this is more of what I was talking about last week. The Bruins did not fire Julien sooner because they did not have a better plan and they were afraid to see him coaching a rival. Now, they still do not have a better plan, winning streak that includes a win over Montreal under Bruce Cassidy notwithstanding, and Julien is coaching a rival. While the Bruins are stuck in the middle, Bruins fans are stuck seeing their team’s all time winningest head coach (Julien passed Art Ross, who has an NHL trophy named after him and who named the Boston Bruins, on the franchise win list last season) behind the bench for the Montreal Canadiens of all teams. The thought crossed my mind the other night when the Bruins played the Habs that if the Bruins win, Claude could be Montreal’s new coach, but the reality is just now sinking in, even though I understood this could and probably would happen on an intellectual level for years.
Ultimately, blame for this falls back in Cam Neely and Don Sweeney. They tried to prevent this from happening, and it still happened, and Bruins fans are still stuck with them while Julien is coaching a real contender and Peter Chiarelli is running the loaded with young talent Edmonton Oilers. There have been worse time to be a Bruins fan, but the fact that the people who made the franchise respectable for the first time in decades are gone makes me concerned about how soon things will get better.
A couple weeks ago, when the Nashville Predators parted ways with head coach Barry Trotz, the longest tenured coach in the NHL and the only head coach the Predators franchise had ever employed, it marked the end of an era. Trotz transformed Nashville from a city with no hockey heritage, to one of the up-and-coming markets in the NHL. Nashville became Smashville. Trotz’ teams were likable, and hard working. They were never prolific scoring teams, but played some of the best defense in the league. Trotz helped build the Preds into a contender, but they struggled in the seasons after the 2012 NHL Lockout. Trotz should be proud of what he accomplished and the Music City, and he will always be remembered fondly by Preds fans. He will surely have another head coaching job soon. For the Predators it is time to turn the page, and take another step forward.
There are a few interesting coaching prospects out there including recently fire Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates, as well as Kevin Dineen, who was fired by the Florida Panthers earlier this season, but coached the Canadian women’s hockey team to Olympic Gold in Sochi in February. Both are qualified, and deserve serious consideration for vacant head coaching jobs, but to me, the obvious choice for Nashville is Peter Laviolette.
At the NHL level, Laviolette has previously coached the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and Philadelphia Flyers. In the one season that the Canes made the playoffs during his tenure, the won the Stanley Cup in 2006. In his first year as the Flyers’ head coach, Lavi got them to a sixth game of the Stanley Cup before bowing out to the Chicago Blackhawks. On their way there, Philly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport when they defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games after trailing three games to none in the series, like the Los Angeles Kings have a chance to do against the San Jose Sharks this week. He’s a good experienced coach who has been in plenty of big games before.
Laviolette would be the perfect coach to turn Nashville’s offensive fortunes around. He plays a very aggressive up-and-down the ice system that puts defenses on their heels. Laviolette’s downfall in Philly was a lock of solid goaltending and defense, but that should not be a problem with goalie Pekka Rinne and Norris Trophy finalist and team captain Shea Weber on the roster to keep scoring down. When highly paid goalie Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t experience the same success in Philly that he had in Phoenix, and when superstar defensive defenseman Chris Pronger wen down with a career ending concussion, the Flyers’ offense could no longer support the patchwork defense, and the Flyers missed the playoffs. It’s also worth noting that Laviolette served as an assistant coach for Team USA in Sochi and that Nashville GM David Poile served as the GM for Team USA.
Peter Laviolette going to Nashville makes all the sense in the world. It’s just a matter of time to see if the Preds feel the same way.
Steve Yzerman made a name for himself as a leader of men in his playing days with the Detroit Red Wings. Since hanging up his skates, he’s risen through the ranks and become one of the best executives in the NHL, first as an assistant GM in Detroit, then overseeing the 2010 Canadian Olympic team that won the Gold Medal Game over the United States, and now as the GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Today, he’s back at it for Team Canada as he announced the final roster for the country that will always be favored in the Olympics. Last week, Team USA GM Brian Burke took a lot of heat for his roster selections, most notably picking Blake Wheeler over Bobby Ryan, but Canada has a much deeper pool of high end talent that their Neighbors to the South.
Here is Canada’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi:
Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
Jeff Carter (LA Kings)
Sidney Crosby (Pitsburgh Penguins)
Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks)
Rick Nash (New York Rangers)
Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks)
Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks)
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)
John Tavares (New York Islanders)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues)
Drew Doughty (LA Kings)
Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks)
Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks)
Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues)
P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks)
Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)
Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes)
This roster is loaded. Only Canada could leave such a combination of young talent (Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Taylor Hall, Wayne Simmonds, etc.) and veteran talent (Mike Richards, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, and Martin Brodeur) off the roster, and still look this good. I’d love to see Iggy and Looch playing for Canada, but Bergeron deserved it more, and I’d rather see those guys healthy and ready to go for the playoffs. I would have liked to see Old Man Marty Brodeur play in yet another Olympics, but Carey Price will probably be the guy in net if it were up to me.
It’s still a few weeks away, but I’m already pumped for the Winter Olympics. It should be a good one!