Report cards: Coach and GM
In the final installment of our 2011-12 Bruins report cards we give our marks for Bruins head coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli. Together, this tandem has helped lead the Bruins to five consecutive playoff appearances and the organization's first Stanley Cup in 39 seasons in 2011. This was bound to be a trying season for both as expectations were high coming off last season’s title. While the Bruins had their peaks and valleys, they were still able to win the Northeast and finish as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. But the Bruins’ failure to advance past the first round and to make the necessary adjustments prior to and during the playoffs prevented Julien and Chiarelli from earning top grades like last season.
Bruins report card -- Coach/Front office
Final grades are in for the 2011-2012 Boston Bruins. Here are the grades for Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli:
|PLAYER||SEASON AND PLAYOFF RECAP/COACH & FRONT OFFICE|
The Bruins finished the 2011-12 season with 102 points, winning the Northeast Division and finishing as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They actually had more wins (49) than the 2010-11 season when they finished third in the East with 103 points and 46 wins. But in the end, the Bruins fell short of their goal, losing in the first round of the playoffs. That playoff failure cost Julien an A. Julien and his staff had a lot to deal with in preparing and guiding the Bruins this season. They came in with targets on their backs as the defending Stanley Cup champions and clearly struggled with that early, going 3-7-0 in October. But Julien got his players back on track as they stormed through November without a regulation loss and were dominant again in December. Then when the midseason doldrums set in during January and February, Julien once again led the team out of that slump and they finished the season strong to take second place in the East. But unfortunately, he and the Bruins couldn't adapt to a Capitals team that played with a strong defensive system and a determination to drive to the net for the dirty goals (sounds very similar to how the Bruins won the Cup last season).
The Bruins GM has always had a knack for making shrewd moves to bolster his team. Last season the additions of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverely weren't flashy moves, but both played a key role in the Cup run. This season Chiarelli made some smaller moves, adding Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau. All three added solid depth, and Rolston seemed to be rejuvenated in Boston, chipping in 15 points in 21 games. While those moves were solid, it was clear in the playoffs that the Bruins needed more scoring, size and grit in the absence of Nathan Horton, who was out with a concussion. But Chiarelli was in a tough spot at the deadline, when it was still expected that Horton would return to the lineup. While not being more aggressive at the deadline might have hurt the Bruins' playoff chances, Chiarelli still put the Bruins in a position to win. Chiarelli's decision to only make minor tweaks during the offseason -- like the signing of Benoit Pouliot -- and keep the Bruins' core intact was a smart move. While the Bruins didn't win the Stanley Cup this season, the future is still bright for this team.
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Joe McDonald, a native Rhode Islander, joined ESPNBoston.com as a Bruins and Red Sox reporter in February 2010. He has worked at the Providence Journal since 1992, covering the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, PawSox and Providence Bruins over the past nine years. Ask a question in our next Bruins mailbag. Follow him on Twitter here.
James Murphy has covered the Bruins and the NHL for the last eleven seasons in various capacities whether it be online, print, radio or TV. In addition to being in his third season with ESPNBoston.com, Murphy has also written for NHL.com, NESN.com, Insidehockey.com, Le Hockey Magazine, the Boston Metro, News12.com and Newsday. On air, Murphy now hosts "Murphy's Hockey Law" a weekly hockey show on Murphyshockeylaw.com and Websportsmedia.com. He is also a regular guest talking hockey on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and TSN 690 in Montreal. Murphy has also given his hockey insight on NESN TV in Boston. Ask a question in our next Bruins mailbag