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Fire patrol

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 21, 2011 11:01 AM

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Don't count me among those who want Claude Julien fired with just 11 games remaining in the regular season.

Count me among those who wanted him fired last May.

This is going to be a bad week for Bruins fans, who watched their team hit the wall over the weekend in Toronto. After New Jersey comes to town tomorrow, it's the Canadiens back at the Garden, with the almighty spirit of the resurrecting Max Pachioretty looming. I'm not concerned that the Bruins could lose the No. 3 seed to Montreal by the end of the week. I fully expect them to do so.

Maybe there's something to be said about consistency for a team that normally fires its coaches more often than it Zambonis, but Claude Julien is now the longest-tenured coach of the Boston Bruins since, would you believe, Gerry Cheevers from 1980-85. Cheevers never finished the 1984-85 campaign, as Harry Sinden relieved him of his duties with 21 games remaining. Yet despite recent clamoring on the part of Bruins fans that Julien suffer the same fate - with just 11 games remaining -  the Bruins would be committing playoff suicide by taking that risk. Wouldn't they? I mean, look at what it did for New Jersey in 2007. All the Devils managed to do was win a playoff series without him. That's all Claude has managed to get you here anyway. What's the diff? With or without you, Claude. 

Regardless, it's not Julien's fault that the Bruins are now a pathetic 1 for their last 567 attempts on the power play, and if that's not an accurate number then it's damn close at least. Tomas Kaberle has come aboard and made the unit look cohesive moving the puck on the man advantage. Neat. They're also just 7-6 since acquiring him. 

It's not Julien's fault that Tim Thomas appears to be puttering out at the most inopportune time, though he certainly has to share some of the blame for overworking his goalie and not playing Tuukka Rask more earlier this season. Rask has been wildly inconsistent this season, but one has to wonder if that would be the case had he played in more than 10 games through December. And what was with the rotating door in net Saturday night?

Whatever confidence you had in this team but three short weeks ago has gone five-hole to the dump. We could be talking anywhere from a 6-7 seed for this team now, which would mean facing off against Washington or - gulp - Montreal in the first round of the NHL playoffs. If it's the latter, the best that can be said about the Bruins' chances is that the Celtics and Red Sox will be playing.

Yes, the Bruins could right the ship and hang onto the No. 3 seed, but the days of yearning for the top spot in the East -  something that we were discussing just two weeks ago if you can believe it - are over. I said last week that Philadelphia and Montreal scare the life out of me come playoff time. Heck, everyone scares the life out of me come playoff time with this team, an inconsistent squad that can't seem to gel. Not having Marc Savard hurts, but the Bruins never really had Marc Savard anyway this season, as the center was a shell of himself when he was on the ice. Imagine where they might be had Peter Chiarelli dealt him last summer. They might have someone to fill his rather large shoes, and I mean someone other than Chris Kelly.

So, what? Fire the coach and hope Cam Neely can learn how to coach on the fly? Is that really a better option than watching Claude sleepwalk his way through the playoffs, where he did something memorable a year ago, if you recall. Maybe it's better to be one-and-done. That way we won't delay the inevitable. Unless you can actually envision this team raising Lord Stanley come June. Because if you can, I'll have what you're having, though I'm thoroughly convinced it must illegal to have that sort of effect.

Keeping Julien on board is the safe thing for Neely and Co. to do. But in Julien's own words prior to some deciding game in a seven-game series against some team that his team had previously led three games to none, "safe is death."

Wash. Rinse.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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