Not the 2003-04 Montreal Canadiens team that bounced the Bruins out of the playoffs.
Not the 2006-07 New Jersey Devils club that won the Atlantic Division.
No, the Claude Julien-coached team that most impressed Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was a junior club that sent the bulk of its roster to play for Canadian universities, not the NHL.
"The one thing that stuck in my mind," said Chiarelli, who introduced Julien as the Bruins' 28th coach yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden, "was not so much that 1997 team with Hull that won the Memorial Cup. It was the team two years later when they had 17 rookies and went to the Quebec League final."
In 1998-99, Chiarelli's latest hire -- the third coach of the GM's tenure, following the firings of Dave Lewis and Mike Sullivan -- led the Hull Olympiques and current NHL forwards Michael Ryder (Canadiens) and Radim Vrbata (Blackhawks) to the QMJHL finals.
The Olympiques lost the President's Cup to Acadie-Bathurst, which was backstopped by All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo. But Chiarelli noted that Julien pulled together an overachieving roster that asked much of its young players, taking them farther than expected -- the monster task he'll be asked to complete in 2007-08 with the Bruins, the third NHL club he'll command.
"This team has a lot of potential," said the 47-year-old Julien, who will take over a team that went 35-41-6 last season, the worst record in the Northeast Division. "We've got some great players. We all know what this team has. I want to come in here, as I've done with many teams in the past, and be a team that's well-structured and work together as a group in the same direction. I want to be a harder team to play against. Defensively, we have to cut down on goals against, limit scoring chances, and be harder to play against."
Julien takes over for Lewis, who was fired last Friday. In 2006-07, Julien coached the Devils until April 2, then was fired by GM Lou Lamoriello with three games remaining in the regular season. Lamoriello granted Chiarelli permission to pursue Julien, and the Bruins do not owe compensation to the Devils for hiring him. Chiarelli declined to disclose the length of Julien's contract.
Chiarelli, whose ties with Julien (he's a resident of Kanata, Ontario, during the offseason) trace to both of their playing days, said Julien had the inside edge throughout the search. Chiarelli and Julien will work together in hiring an assistant coach to replace Marc Habscheid.
"We're going to act at reasonable speed," said Chiarelli. "We're going to work on it together and do it in due course."
Julien, who went 47-24-8 in New Jersey, did not offer insight on why he was fired by Lamoriello. But Julien hinted he was not the primary proponent of the trap the Devils have featured.
Instead, Julien is an advocate of fast-paced hockey, with an emphasis on establishing an aggressive forecheck and adapting the defense around the first man into the attacking zone. Last season, the Bruins scored 2.56 goals per game (25th overall) and allowed 3.48 goals per game (29th).
"The most important part is that you have to have someone aggressive on the puck right from the start," said Julien, who had quick, fast forwards in Montreal. "Good forechecking certainly helps offensive output. We need to establish that and make sure everybody plays the same way. It's important for the other guys to read the first forechecker. He's the most important guy."
A supposed shortcoming of Julien is that he is a players' coach who hasn't been feisty enough with older players. In Boston, Julien will be expected to connect with veterans Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard, Glen Murray, and Patrice Bergeron, the stronger personalities in the dressing room.
"He demands execution," said Chiarelli. "I've seen what he's done with his teams. That's something that's part of his formula."
While Julien leaned heavily on goalie Martin Brodeur and veterans Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Brian Rafalski, Chiarelli credited him for developing forwards Zach Parise and Travis Zajac and defenseman Andy Greene, three of New Jersey's younger players.
Chiarelli also ticked off the names of Ryder, forwards Tomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins, and defenseman Mike Komisarek -- youngsters who had significant ice time during Julien's time in Montreal.
"Another factor in hiring Claude is his ability to integrate youth in the lineup," said Chiarelli. "He's able to cultivate these players, which translated into a winning formula. He has that ability to elevate their level of play, and that was one of the factors in deciding on him."
Julien, a former defenseman, played 12 years of pro hockey, including 14 NHL games for the Quebec Nordiques. He also coached the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal's AHL affiliate, where he was named the league's most outstanding coach in 2002-03.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.