By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When Fluto Shinzawa is talking about Claude Julien potentially losing his job, you know the head coach must be in trouble.
The veteran Boston Globe Bruins beat writer is generally well-plugged into the Bruins organization, and he’s also not usually one to deal in controversial topics like questioning the coach’s job status. In a new new column over the weekend, he asked Bruins GM Don Sweeney if Julien’s job could be in jeopardy. It was an opportunity for Sweeney to give a vote of confidence and say his job was secure moving forward.
He did no such thing.
“I’m not avoiding the question … I think it’s an obvious one. You have to look at every different thing,” said Sweeney when asked whether the team was considering a coaching change. He wouldn’t even rule out his own job being in jeopardy.
“Claude’s been receptive to putting younger players in roles that aren’t always comfortable at times. We’re continuing to work at it,” said Sweeney. “I have to look at everything. Ownership would look at me and realize, ‘Well, has Sweeney done enough in the course of his time here?’ We’re sort of in the same place we’ve been, battling. But I think a lot of teams are in that.”
Sweeney is well aware that the Bruins are once again in a position where they can make it back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a two-year absence, but could be on track to once again let that opportunity slip through their fingers.
“Last year, we were in a great position, and we [expletive] the bed,” said Sweeney. “I’m hopeful we’re not tracking in the wrong direction, because we’ve been in a decent position and we haven’t taken advantage of it.”
The Bruins are in a spot where another missed playoff appearance would qualify as an even greater underachievement than the past two seasons. Julien and his staff have improved the play of the defense, particularly with young players like Brandon Carlo and Colin Miller. David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have taken big steps forward offensively. David Backes has improved the team’s toughness, net-front presence, and leadership.
They are running out of excuses to miss the playoffs – and to keep Julien behind the bench.
The team’s improvement in certain areas does not discount that veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are not having their best seasons. The third and fourth lines are contributing virtually nothing on offense. They are starting off many of their games flat and giving up early goals, especially at home. They are wasting a Vezina-caliber season from Tuukka Rask.
Unfortunately, it’s getting to the point where it may be time for the Bruins to go in another direction at the head coach spot. It may take a bad losing streak for a mid-season change to happen, but as evidenced by Sweeney’s comments, the team has not ruled that out.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.