Claude Julien to return as Bruins coach for 2015-16 season
Four assistants also are likely to be back
Bruins coach Claude Julien, his job in limbo for nearly two months following the abrupt season-end dismissal of general manager Peter Chiarelli, will be back behind the bench for the start of the 2015-16 season, according to two NHL sources.
It is also believed that Julien, 55, will be joined by his full cadre of assistant coaches, including Doug Jarvis, Doug Houda, Joe Sacco, and Bob Essensa.
Julien is beginning a new three-year contract he signed in November 2014 while Chiarelli was still in charge.
Rumors in recent weeks have pointed to a change at least among the assistant coaches. However, all are on target to return, though the length of their contract terms is unclear. It’s possible, according to one of the sources, that all four will have deals that expire at the end of the season.
Don Sweeney, named the club’s new GM on May 20, would neither confirm nor deny Julien’s return when contacted by the Globe. The club announced earlier this week that Sweeney will meet with the media Friday in Buffalo, where the NHL is conducting its combine, the annual testing regimen for players who will be eligible in the draft (June 26-27 in Sunrise, Fla).
It is likely that Sweeney will announce Julien’s return during that media availability.
Responding to an e-mail from a Globe reporter, Sweeney said he “would be happy to answer any questions with regards to the coaching staff’’ at that time.
Club president Cam Neely, reached by phone, declined comment, noting that it was Sweeney’s role to comment on the coaching situation.
“I know everyone wants to be first on this story,’’ said Neely, “but anything on the coaches is for Don to announce.’’
Julien has been unavailable for comment since Chiarelli’s dismissal on April 15.
Julien, whose team failed to qualify for the playoffs this year, will be entering his ninth season as Bruins coach. He was hired by Chiarelli in the summer of 2007, following the disappointing one-year run of Dave Lewis (35-41-6), and until this year he had steered the Bruins into the playoffs each season, including the 2011 run that culminated in the club’s first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years.
The Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013, but were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
Sweeney noted during his introductory news conference that he and Julien would have to meet to discuss their individual philosophies on how they believe the game is played and coached. Sweeney’s tone was both respectful and telling, as he noted that the season was a disappointment and changes were to be expected.
With no change behind the bench, it would appear that Sweeney met with Julien and came away convinced that his coach is willing to take a riskier, more up-tempo approach to the game — one that more closely approximates the speed-and-attack tactics displayed by the Blackhawks, Lightning, Rangers, and Ducks in the recent Stanley Cup semifinals.
In contrast to those four teams, the Bruins were a plodding, oft-uninspired bunch this season, their legs heavy and their confidence particularly thin in the offensive end of the ice.
Julien, an ex-defenseman, has preached a controlled, defense-first approach since arriving on Causeway Street. And until this season it was effective. In his time here, Julien’s squads have gone 351-192-79, collecting 62.8 percent of 1,244 points available in those 622 games.
The Bruins in 2014-15 went 41-27-14 for 96 points, edged out of a playoff spot on the final weekend by the surging Senators, ultimately leading to Chiarelli’s dismissal.
It was not Julien’s worst season behind the bench. In 2009-10, the Bruins went 39-30-13 for 91 points, but it was enough to qualify for the playoffs, the Bruins bowing out in the second round and then returning the following season to win the Cup.