- Matt Kalman, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- As the Phil Kessel saga unfolded, a lot was made about the winger's reportedly rocky relationship with head coach Claude Julien.
One report had the player and bench boss feuding all the time, and one even said that the type of stick Kessel used at one point became a bone of contention.
Saturday on the day after Kessel was dealt to Toronto for three draft picks, Julien tried to explain that his relationship wasn't much different than the one he has with the rest of his players.
"I'm not going to sugar coat this; he wasn't any different than a lot of players to deal with at times. You never have smooth relationships because there's challenges along the way," said Julien, whose defensive-minded system obviously didn't always jive with the offense-first approach Kessel was used to taking all his career."What you've got to do as a coach is convince those guys and make them understand and believe that this is what we need to do to be the best team possible, what you need to do to be the best player possible.
"We all know that Phil's grown up as a superstar player and those guys will always be a bigger bit of a challenge. But I can tell you honestly that last year there were no issues as far as him resisting, and there shouldn't have been because obviously his season proved that he was very successful."
Before Julien came on board, Kessel was minus-12 as a rookie in 2006-07. During Julien's first season Kessel improved to minus-6 and then made the meteoric rise to plus-23 to go along with his team-high 36 goals last season.
There are a lot of ways the Bruins can make up for Kessel's departure, including adding a healthy Marco Sturm back in the lineup, leaning on a healthier Patrice Bergeron and Matt Hunwick, and maximizing Derek Morris' potential now that he has signed and is in the mix. Julien is in no way panicked now that the post-Kessel era has started.
"You hope that through some of the young guys and others that as a team we'll make up for that difference," he said."It's one player and we have some young players that we feel are going to get better, so we really have to focus on moving forward without him and not thinking for a second that now we've turned from a good team to a bad team. I think we'll be just fine."
Bruins coach Claude Julien said that he didn't have any problems with Phil Kessel.