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Bear Claude

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff June 21, 2007 09:40 AM

Welcome to Boston, Claude Julien. Rent, don’t buy.

You clearly have to wonder the sanity of any man taking a head coaching position with the Boston Bruins these days. Red Sox shortstops have more job security.

Yet, here is the 47-year-old former coach of the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, who today takes the reins of the Bruins, preaching discipline and accountability for a team that floundered under Dave Lewis, a coach that fans only witnessed emotion from when his mustache burrowed.

Maybe Julien can indeed lead this team back to the playoffs. Maybe even past the first round of the playoffs. Of course we all understand the better likelihood is that by next April the man will be canned after the front office deems that he’s not the right choice. And we’ll begin this ridiculous merry-go-round once again.

Who is the right choice? What, you expect the Bruins know that? It's clear this franchise has no idea what direction it is headed in a league that is fighting for its own relevance. Season tickets on sale now.

Julien is the seventh Boston head coach of the past decade, the fifth since the waning days of the 2002-03 season. The fifth. Over that same period, the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics have combined to change the men in charge three times (Grady Little to Terry Francona, and Jim O’Brien to John Carroll to Doc Rivers).

With the Black and Gold, that line reads Robbie Ftorek to Mike O’Connell to Mike Sullivan to Lewis to Julien, the latest face who brings with him a nice resume that will be wasted on the incompetence of the team he now works for.

Oh, sure there was some hope a year ago, when the Jacobs -- more for PR really than an actual shift in philosophy -- finally cleaned house of the disaster that was O’Connell, the general manager who traded away all the team’s franchise players in a desperate attempt to save his own standing. Gone was Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, a pair of players who brought so much excitement and promise with them into the early part of this decade, dealt for bit parts in hope of a shake-up. Franchise players dealt in order to light a fire, the very thought sounds even more ridiculous as time passes.

After Ray Shero had a moment of enlightenment, and realized, “you know, I’m absolutely clinically insane to take a job here,” in came Peter Chiarelli, a man who evidently had no issues with the strewn mess in front of him. It was officially billed as the dawn of a new day, a new regime at the Garden. And then, the Bruins went into the 2006 draft with Chiarelli drafting for his former team, an insane turn of events that hinted things could get even more ludicrous.

It was more of the same in '06-'07, as the new Bruins looked just like the old Bruins, except more tired, boring, and ignored. It was Lewis’s fault, of course, the team just recently decided. Two months after the season ended.

What did they know now that they didn’t know then? Simple. Season ticket renewals were likely a bit slower than usual for this time of year, otherwise known as the annual season when the Bruins fans come to their senses. What better way to drum up at least a little interest for this weekend’s draft (nothing says rip-roaring fun like a genuine NHL Draft) than by hiring some new blood and getting your name back in the news? Face it, how much Bruins talk did your household have over the past nine weeks up until Friday evening when the Lewis news came down? And how many more people do you think have now signed up for tomorrow night’s draft party at Jillian’s? No really, this exists.

In fact, the Bruins blogs have been buzzing over the past few days awaiting the impending announcement. Or, at least we imagine they would be if we could find many of them.

Ticket sales, TV ratings, and general interest in the Bruins may indeed be at an all-time low, a matter that probably doesn’t bother Jeremy Jacobs as much as long as Disney on Ice brings in the dollars at the concession stands.

By many accounts, Julien is a nice coach, albeit one whose trap philosophies should make for an even more abhorred product in Boston. Most fans wanted Mike Milbury back in town, desperate for a rah-rah guy that might light a fire under this team. Instead, Julien is the man. After all, there's always next year for Milbury.

The Bruins may have a promising future on their doorstep with players like Tukka Rask and Phil Kessel emerging. But by the way business is done over on Causeway these days, even that is no cause for excitement, particularly the way this team has been totally dismantled over the past few seasons. That's not the fault of management, mind you. It's the coach. And after the Bruins falter during the '07-'08 season, Julien will be on the way out the door, too.

Does this sound familiar?

Better yet, Claude, you may want to check what kind of long-term rate you can get at the Sheraton if you want to get involved in this mess. Enjoy the next 10 months though.

by eric wilbur

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