With Claude Julien available, some NHL team is going to be happy to hire him. Here are the five best fits for him.
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Claude Julien has been done wrong by the Boston Bruins. In typical fashion, he got fired on the same day as the New England Patriots Super Bowl parade. Julien is the winningest coach in Bruins history. In 2010-11, he led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years. The Bruins need change, but the only meaningful change was going to happen in management, not behind the bench. Julien, for all intents and purposes, became the easy and unfair scapegoat.
It won’t take long for him to find a new job. Even Mike Babcock, who many consider the greatest coach in the league, respects how great Julien is.
Some team is going to get mighty lucky by hiring him. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Claude Julien might have been seen by the Bruins as trash, but he’ll be a treasure to someone, just like he was in Boston. Here are five teams who make sense for him if he wants to coach next season.
Dec 18, 2016; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (29) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
5. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are, for some odd reason, committed to current head coach Paul Maurice. He probably should have been fired a while ago, but he’s stuck around. A playoff appearance in 2014-15 likely saved his job for a bit.
Julien would be a significant upgrade over Maurice, as his career point percentage (.603) is on par with Maurice’s best single season (.604). The Jets have skill and talent, but no one to utilize it properly. Winnipeg has been loathe to spend big, but they should consider doing so for Julien. The Jets would be tempting for him too. Coaching Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler (again), and Nikolaj Ehlers sounds pretty nice.
BOSTON – MAY 15: Coach Claude Julien gives some pointers to Tyler Seguin. The Boston Bruins held a morning practice at the TD Garden in preparation for Thursday’s Eastern Conference semifinals game against the New York Rangers. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
4. Dallas Stars
First of all, the universe deserves Claude Julien and Tyler Seguin joining forces again. The last time they did, they won a Stanley Cup. Sure, Julien was tough on Seguin, but to be fair, it worked. Dallas might be looking for a new head coach if they miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Lindy Ruff might not be the biggest issue with the Stars, but coaches are very easy scapegoats.
Julien would be a welcome change for Dallas. The Stars biggest issue is defense and if you give Julien good defensemen, he’ll work some magic. This of course assumes the front office in Dallas is willing to fix obvious holes. Even with the blue line they have now, Julien would be a net positive. He might not have a Zdeno Chara, but John Klingberg is a franchise defenseman at a dirt cheap price.
Then again, would he want to coach a team who deliberately ignored terrible goaltending and did nothing to address it? Julien went through it in Boston and he likely doesn’t want a repeat anywhere else. But Jim Nill is a pretty good general manager. They could form a nice head coach and general manager combo.
Feb 3, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52) battle for the puck in the second period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
3. New York Islanders
Doug Weight is currently the head coach of the New York Islanders. However, he’s simply the interim head coach after the firing of Jack Capuano. While the Islanders have done well under Weight, he’s better off in a front office role. To drum up interest so they can have a permanent home (and so they can ensure they keep John Tavares around long-term), the Isles have to start trying to win now. What better way to do so than by hiring Claude Julien?
To keep Tavares, the Islanders have to prove they’re serious about contending. With all due respect to Weight, having him as a coach when Julien is available is not something a contender should do. Tavares has never had the luxury of having a head coach in the NHL with experience. Julien would be his first and would do wonders for him.
If the new ownership wants to put their mark on the franchise, few moves would do it better than hiring a Stanley Cup champion. Julien would immediately make the Islanders a contender. However, would the Bruins allow an Eastern Conference team to interview their former head coach? Probably not. But the Islanders have been willing to shell out the big bucks for coaches in the past. If they get a shot at Julien, don’t be surprised to see him behind the bench for the Isles.
Jan 31, 2017; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers teammates celebrate defeating the Ottawa Senators 6-5 at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
2. Florida Panthers
This is perhaps the least likely destination on this list. The Bruins might be a complete mess, but they’re probably not silly enough to give a division rival permission to interview Claude Julien. That said, they were dumb enough to trade Tyler Seguin, so anything is possible.
Julien would be a great fit for the Panthers. He’s an analytics friendly coach who is a consistent winner. What the Panthers need is someone like Julien who knows what he’s doing. Much like the Bruins when he took over, Florida has a promising core of players, led by Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and former Bruin Reilly Smith.
There is, however, the front office issue. Their moves this season suggest they’re not all on the same page. Considering what Claude Julien went through in Boston, a strong front office is likely a requirement to hire him. Also, while he isn’t a bitter guy or the type to hold grudges, part of him probably wants to stick it to the Bruins. The Panthers would give him the chance to do so multiple times each year.
Tom Rowe is their current head coach. He is better off in an assistant coach role, so Julien makes sense for them right now. However, a coaching change isn’t likely until the summer.
LAS VEGAS, NV – NOVEMBER 22: Pyrotechnics explode as the Vegas Golden Knights name and logo is revealed during the Las Vegas NHL team name Unveiling ceremony on November 22, 2016, at The Park at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Josh Holmberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
1. Vegas Golden Knights
Perhaps no job out there for next season makes more sense for Claude Julien than the Vegas Golden Knights. While there are some other great candidates out there, such as Ken Hitchcock and Gerrard Gallant, neither of the two have a resume perfectly fit for an expansion team as him.
Throughout his coaching career, Julien has been able to get the most out of his players. Despite fielding a team with huge issues the past two seasons, he kept the Bruins afloat and contending. Julien’s style tends to be more physical and defense oriented at its best. That’s the kind of hockey Vegas will have to play if they want to contend. And if the Golden Knights want to win people over, they’re going to have to win games.
While Vegas will be better off than previous expansion teams, they won’t be able to beat other teams based on skill. Julien’s system is perfect for this. George McPhee leads a pretty impressive and experienced front office. It would be kind of ironic to see them working together, though.
If the Vegas Golden Knights hire Claude Julien as their coach, he and GM George McPhee can reminisce about their legendary 70's CHL fight.