BOSTON (CBS) – Not much is known about Claude Julien away from the hockey rink.
One thing is for sure though, you won’t catch him in a Karaoke Bar on an off day.
“Karaoke is definitely not my style; not because I don’t like to go there but because I can’t sing,” Julien joked on Thursday as his team prepares for an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “That’s admitting your weaknesses.”
But his inability to blare out a few tunes doesn’t take away from anything Julien brings on the ice or in the locker room. Ask any of his Boston Bruins and they will all tell you how great it is to play for their head coach.
“He’s done a great job here in the last six years he’s been with the team. We’ve had the luxury of having the same coach and same group of guys through these years, and it’s been a great relationship between the players and him. He knows how good we can be, and it goes both ways,” netminder Tuukka Rask said of Julien. “He knows when to take a step back and let us handle it, but he knows when to step up and say when he sees something as well.”
The praise should come as no surprise for Julien, who is now enjoying his sixth season as head coach of the Bruins. He’s guided them to a 256-144-56 record in the regular season and has made it to the playoffs in each his seasons on the bench — bringing home the ultimate prize with a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011.
But that doesn’t mean it has always been smooth sailing for Julien. There was the collapse to the Phialdelphia Flyers after owning a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Semis in 2010, and a dramatic first-round exit to the Washington Capitals in their Cup defense of 2012.
It seems as though whenever anything goes wrong with Boston’s hockey club, the blame always falls on Julien.
But he has the respect of his players, and that’s all that really matters to him. He enjoyed the championship two years ago because of what it meant for his players, not any validation it brought to him as a coach.
That’s just the way he is, and that’s not going to change.
“I go about my own business. What you see in me here in Boston is what you see in me for the most part,” Julien said. “I’m not a self-promoter; I don’t need that in my life. I love my job, and I like going out there doing my job – what needs to be done.”
Julien’s defensive system may be frustrating at times for fans and players alike, but all of his players give him credit for making them better on the ice. Just ask Tyler Seguin, who came to the Bruins the second-overall pick in 2010 – an offensive whiz who had to put in his time and earn his spot on the team.
“I’ve had to adjust so much over time, and I put trust in everyone in this organization when I first got here. Trying to learn, even though I was never happy about sitting out games or being scratched, I learned over time and trusted him, and it’s changed me as a player — it’s made me better,” Seguin said of Julien.
Patrice Bergeron had three years of NHL play under his belt when Julien came to Boston, but salutes the coach for teaching him how to grow more as a locker room presence.
“He gave me a chance to develop as a leader and also get better as a player, which is something I’ll always be thankful for,” said Bergeron. “He’s the guy that brought us to our goal, our dream to win a Stanley Cup, and you can’t say enough about that. It’s something we want to do again and he’s the guy for it. He’s fair to everyone, and that’s what you want as a player.”
It’s that fair approach with all of his players that has helped Julien find success. He’ll never throw a struggling skater under the bus, and very rarely will he use the media as a motivator. He’ll deliver any message he needs to himself, and is confident it will be echoed by the large collection of leaders in the locker room.
“I spent most of my career in the minors and the one thing you want to do is treat your players with respect,” said Julien. “There is that fine line between respect and authority, and I always keep that in mind. (My players) know who is in charge, but there is some respect there and they can come knock on my door whenever they want. There are those times when you can joke around with them, but on game day they’ll see me just like they are; my head is into the game and it’s all about focus.”
“He knows when to take a step back and let us handle it, but he knows when to step up and talk when he sees something as well,” said Rask.
“Every coach will tell you that you can give your team a message, but at the end of the day it’s how they take it, how they it’s shared and how it’s delivered to one another,” said Julien. “You can walk out of the room and some players will say ‘he’s full of you know what’ and others will say ‘listen, he is making sense so let’s make sure we follow that.’ That’s where leadership comes up huge; we’ve had some great leaders here in the past and now in the present.”
On or off the ice, that leadership starts begins with the man leading the way on the bench.
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