Fantasy Impact: the Bruins fire head coach Claude Julien, replacing him with Bruce Cassidy on an interim basis.
Cassidy was last an NHL head coach back in 2003-04.
As is often the case, things had to hit unsustainable lows for the Bruins to fire their head coach. Is it Julien’s fault that his team has the third lowest shooting percentage in the league, cratering to dead last at 5-on-5.
Is it Julien’s fault that the three-headed backup goaltending monster of Anton Khudobin, Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban strung together a near historic run of incompetence posting a combined 3.53 GAA and a .871 SV%? That group won just one of their 13 starts! No wonder the Bruins are riding Rask into the ground.
Is it Julien’s fault that the front office embarked on a rebuild on-the-fly and has exceeded expectations?
Julien helped craft this roster into one of the league’s premier possession teams leading the league in both Corsi and Fenwick percentages. If he gets average shooting from his club, or even marginally below-average goaltending from his backups, the Bruins are firmly in a playoff spot and his job is safe. He got neither of those things and will go on to help some other team to overachieve at his next stop.
The turnaround had already started to happen. Patrice Bergeron’s miserable shooting from the first half has rebounded with nine goals in his last 20 games, good for a 10% shooting percentage over that stretch.
David Krejci has also rediscovered his scoring touch with 10 goals in his last 32 games, scoring on 13.5% of his shots.
All that a new coach can do is either ride the wave improved shooting that is already happening or mess around with combinations and derail what has worked. We didn’t see this take place when Doug Weight took over for the Islanders but early indications are that Cassidy will tinker with using Pastrnak on Krejci’s wing instead of Bergeron’s. Julien experimented with this at times but always brought Pastrnak back to Bergeron’s wing. Time will tell.
My biggest concern is that Marchand will lose his gig on the top PP unit. He always had the potential to bust out if given power play time and it has turned him into a superstar. Marchand already has a career high 16 PPP (double his previous high) so he is already playing with house money but if he is to continue at an elite rate he’ll need continued PP usage.
We should also discuss Tuukka Rask’s declining play. He got off to an incredible start but is fading fast. Since January 1, Rask has won just six of 15 appearances, with a 3.15 GAA and a .867 SV%. He has turned into his backups. We know that Rask is better than the last month indicates and his play should rebound, which will help the interim coach look good.
We can’t put this all on the bad shooting, or bad backup goaltending. But the external expectations for this team were low and they have surpassed them. For whatever reason, internal expectations seem to be higher. It seems unlikely that a new coach will get more from this group. Bergeron and Krejci have already begun their rebound and the team has gotten Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano back healthy. I suppose the Bruins could start to get their money’s worth from Beleskey and David Backes but expectations should be low here.
The Bruins would do themselves a huge favour if they could find some competent backup goaltending. Khudobin was a top backup in his first go-around in Boston but he hasn’t played good hockey in almost three years.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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