Julien far from a clod
Ode to Claude.
Sorry we doubted you. Sorry about the criticism and the sarcasm and occasional wisecracks.
It wasn’t nice when Shawn Thornton went on the radio and the jock-talk guys asked him, “Do you think your coach looks more like Charlie Brown or Elmer Fudd?’’
Too easy to poke fun, right? So what if you look a little like Hank Hill’s friend, Bill Dauterive. Or Mr. Potato Head. We’ve come to love the way you punch the second “t’’ when you say, “tonigh . . . ttttt.’’
I was guilty of calling you “Grady Julien.’’ It has a nice ring to it, and after what happened in the playoffs last year, and the year before, it seemed to be a pretty good fit.
When you were hired we all just thought maybe you were Peter Chiarelli’s cousin. Like the general manager, you were a little dull and conservative. You never said anything flamboyant or controversial. You were always a stay-the-course, even-keel guy. The most outrageous thing we ever saw from you was that nifty, Bogart-like lid you wore during the Winter Classic. By Claude Julien standards, that was practically a lampshade on your head.
Your feet were in the fire throughout this season and in the early rounds of the playoffs. When you lost those first two games at home against the Canadiens, we figured you were toast. You were going the way of Rick Bowness and Brian Sutter and Robbie Ftorek and Dave Lewis. Another Bruins coach ground up and spit out.
There must have been a reason Lou Lamoriello dumped you moments before the Devils went into the playoffs in 2007. That one must have hurt. Seventy-nine games, a first-place standing, and they replaced you. Ouch.
We know so much about the other Boston coaches and their families. We follow the high school and college careers of Doc Rivers’s kids. We know Doc commutes from Orlando, Fla. Terry Francona’s son, Nick, was always around the clubhouse. He pitched at Penn and now he’s serving our country. Tito and his wife have a big charity event tomorrow. We mourned for Bill Belichick when he delivered the eulogy for his dad at the Naval Academy. We’ve seen Bill and his new lady friend on the Jumbotron.
What about you, Claude? The press guide says you have a wife, Karen, and a daughter Katryna Chanel. Sorry we never asked about them.
Your conservative coaching sometimes drove us crazy. We all wanted to see more of Tyler Seguin. You kept him on the bench. You made him a healthy scratch for the first 11 games of the playoffs. You only brought him back because guys got hurt. But you wouldn’t put him on the power play. You limited his minutes.
You loved the veteran players. Experience means so much to you. You were like the high school coach who always played the seniors.
You kept your cool. You kept your dignity. You were firm but measured.
When agitator Max Lapierre taunted Patrice Bergeron, putting his finger in Bergeron’s face in Game 2, you said, “If it’s acceptable for them, then so be it. Certainly it wouldn’t be acceptable on our end of it. The NHL rules on something. They decide to make a mockery of it, that’s totally up to them. We can’t waste out time on that kind of stuff.’’
Right after you said that, two of your own players — Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic — did the same thing in Game 3.
You swallowed hard and said, “It was disappointing for me to see that happen after what I said. Emotions got the better of them. I’m going to stand here and say I’m not accepting it.’’
The next game, Recchi didn’t have the “A’’ on his sweater. It reminded us of Belichick benching Wes Welker for a series after Welker went off the rails and mocked Rex Ryan’s foot fetish.
You made a few tweaks and they worked. You tried Zdeno Chara in front of the net for some power plays. It worked. You put Rich Peverley on the first line when Nathan Horton went down. It worked. Turns out you were right about Seguin, too.
When Roberto Luongo made a fool of himself, commenting about Tim Thomas after Game 5, you defended your guy. You said, “He [Thomas] has given up six goals in five games. The guy that made the comment, I’m not sure how many he’s let in, but I think you have a good idea.’’
Too many to count, I guess. Fourteen, to be precise. Nice shot, Claude.
Did the second-guessing ever bother you, we asked?
“No, because honestly I don’t hear it,’’ you said. “I really don’t. I stay away from that stuff. I need to come to the rink with a clear head. I discuss, obviously, all the stuff that’s done. It’s not just about me. It’s a coaching staff, management, stuff like that. We talk about different things. Of course, the final decision always goes to the coach, but it’s not like it’s all about me. So those kind of things don’t really bother me because, as I mentioned, I don’t really hear it and I don’t know about it unless you guys remind me.’’
In the end, you put the Bruins one win away from their first Stanley Cup since 1972. You were the man behind the bench when hockey came back to Boston in the spring of 2011.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.