Alex Sponseller

Alex Sponseller

On Thursday morning, the Boston Bruins held a press conference to talk about the state of the team as well as announce that coach Claude Julien will return for his 10th season behind the bench . Thanks to this move, the Bruins have all but ensured another average team next season.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Julien as a coach. He has established himself as one of the top seven or eight coaches in the league and has proven he has the ability to take teams deep in the playoffs.

Sometimes, a resume just doesn’t matter.

Julien deserves the respect of Boston fans. He recently became the club’s winningest coach and ended a 39-year championship drought in 2011. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

For the second-straight year, the B’s were just on the outside looking in to the playoffs. For the second-straight year, a playoff berth seemed secured mid-to-late in the season, but last minute follies knocked them out.

When the Bruins have players like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask in their primes, along with an aging but effective Zdeno Chara, there is no reason to not be a top-eight team in the conference.

Let’s be fair, this year Julien was handed a dismal defense. Chara is still above average – but not when he’s playing top-line minutes. Torey Krug is simply too small to play pure defense, and both Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are no more than third pair defenders.

Fans’ first reaction is to blame the one who handed Julien this roster. Although Don Sweeney failed this year as Peter Chiarelli did before him, there was enough talent to make the playoffs. Of course there was not enough to win a championship, but there was at least enough to qualify for the eighth seed … minimum.

Having said that, Julien’s biggest flaw is his clear inability to develop younger players. It seems like Julien may have lost his locker room as well, but all signs point toward the lack of progression with the young guys.

I don’t believe that this has been a careerlong problem for Julien. Marchand has steadily grown since his emergence in 2010- 11, so has David Krejci. However, this year both David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner plateaued , while Brett Connolly still hasn’t lived up to his first-round talent.

And about the problem on defense, rising star Colin Miller also never fully developed. The reason? Because Julien never allowed him too.

Instead of getting regular minutes and long stretches of starts, Colin Miller was bounced around and often on the bench to let McQuaid and Kevan Miller rule the third line. Colin Miller would have at least matched their production, and probably would have succeeded it.

Once again, this is not only Julien’s fault. Between having a limited roster and sub-par GM work, he and the team have taken a step back in the last two years.

What’s inexcusable is Julien’s lack of progress with young players. Worst of all, this team has flatlined, and another season with Julien will simply not improve the team, especially with the little cap room left to spend.

For the Bruins to improve next season, Julien has no choice but to utilize these young players … if the past two seasons are any indication, 2016-17 does not look too promising.

The Bruins have too much young talent to let go to waste, and until Julien changes his philosophy, the Bruins will remain an ordinary team.

Sports Staff Writer Alex Sponseller can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 323.


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