The Boston Bruins didn’t need a reminder that they’ve been underachieving this season as they sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and on the outside of the current playoff picture.
Upper management decided to give them one anyway.
They’ll try to take a little heat off of themselves as they look to avoid a season-worst fourth straight defeat Wednesday night on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins (19-15-6) have gone just 5-6-5 since Dec. 1, with each defeat during this skid coming after 60 minutes. They fell 2-1 in a shootout at last-place Carolina on Sunday, and the club’s current position isn’t sitting well.
Owner Jeremy Jacobs stepped down as CEO of the group the controls the Bruins and TD Garden, passing the title Tuesday to his son, Charlie. The younger Jacobs had plenty to say about the club’s struggles.
"I’d say, without question, this has been a very disappointing year," Jacobs said. "It’s unacceptable the way this team has performed given the amount of time, money and effort that’s been spent on this team.
"Everybody in the executive offices is fully aware how I feel and they feel the same way, which brings us to this evaluation process – and it’s fluid right now. I can’t say at any moment we have a final decision other than to say that it’s been an utter disappointment and a failure, complete failure."
Coach Claude Julien has taken the Bruins to the playoffs the last seven seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and appearing in the finals in 2013. He still wasn’t surprised by Jacobs’ harsh statements.
"I’ve always felt like we’re under evaluation all the time," Julien told the team’s official website. "My job in the last couple of days has been really to try and get the guys just to relax a little bit and not be so tense. Hopefully these comments don’t make it any worse, but this is what we have to do, and we’ll get through it."
Boston is just 3-7-2 in its last 12 on the road.
"We all know that we’re in that position, so the fact that (management is) saying it isn’t a shock or surprise to anyone," forward Brad Marchand said. "The main thing right now is we’ve got to look in here to bring ourselves out of this situation and improve on our record."
The Bruins had won six of the previous seven meetings with the Penguins, including a sweep in the 2013 East finals, before Evgeni Malkin scored in overtime to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 victory Nov. 24.
The Penguins (24-10-5) haven’t played as well as they would like either lately, going 2-4-1 over their last seven. Newly acquired David Perron scored the lone goal in Saturday’s 4-1 home loss to Montreal.
Pittsburgh could be getting some help defensively, though, as Paul Martin is on the verge of returning from an undisclosed injury that has kept him out of eight straight.
"After the last couple days and (Tuesday), I went out there with the guys and haven’t felt any issues or soreness," Martin said. "The next thing is to take it into some action. Hopefully, (Wednesday) I’ll be in. I think I will."
Marc-Andre Fleury could be in net for the Penguins, though he’s just 1-3-1 with a 3.16 goals-against average over his last six.
It’s unclear if Boston will go with Tuukka Rask or Niklas Svedberg in goal, as the Bruins face New Jersey on Thursday.