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BOSTON -- Mark Recchi, along with fellow former Bruins Shane Hnidy and Michael Ryder, was with the team Tuesday night to receive his Stanley Cup ring. He will stay in Boston until Friday so he can be here when the Bruins raise their 2010-11 Stanley Cup banner prior to the season opener against the Flyers Thursday night at TD Garden.
As far as Recchi is concerned, there would have been no rings or banner if not for Claude Julien. In fact, Recchi had a message for all those who doubted the veteran coach, who is entering his fifth season as the Bruins bench boss.
|Patrice Bergeron, with Milan Lucic, says coach Claude Julien's calm approach helped the Bruins win the Cup last season and has them focused on repeating this season.|
"I don't really care what the outside thought or may still think, and I understand it's part of the game, but not once did we ever stop believing in Claude," the retired Recchi said Tuesday afternoon before heading to the team's ring ceremony. "Claude was one of the biggest reasons we got through the Montreal series and came back in the Vancouver series. He did a great job of calming us down and keeping us within our game and ourselves. He has really become one of the greatest coaches in the game and that showed it."
Following the Stanley Cup finals win over the Canucks, virtually every member of the Bruins echoed that sentiment and credited Julien for being the calming influence a team needs in the two-month playoff grind en route to raising the Stanley Cup. During Tuesday's media day, the players all seemed to agree with Recchi that Julien's calming influence and coaching skills were a key ingredient to the Cup run and will be key as the Bruins embark on a new season with targets on their backs.
"We were the type of group last year that any time our backs were against the wall we stepped up," veteran forward Shawn Thornton said when asked about helping Julien answer his critics. "We always tried to make a statement and the guys love playing for him. We knew what he was going through and we appreciate what he does for us. We wanted to make that clear."
Thornton has a genuine respect for Julien's patience and deliberation as a coach and feels that will be useful as the season gets underway Thursday and the Bruins try to avoid having a Stanley Cup hangover.
"He's a really smart coach and he likes to take a step back and think about things before he addresses them," Thornton said. "I'm sure that won't change now and throughout the course of the season."
Like Recchi, alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg alluded to the 2-0 deficits the Bruins came back from against the Habs and Canucks, crediting Julien with keeping the team together.
"It helped a lot," Bergeron said. "Last year I can remember against Montreal and also against Vancouver being down 2-0, you can sense when your coach is nervous or panicking, but we never had that feeling with Claude. You could tell that he was always confident and always calm. It goes a long way. It makes you comfortable and makes you believe that you can do it. I see the same thing this year with him. You can tell he's the same way. He wants us to turn the page and be better. He doesn't give us any free passes because we won, and that's what we need."
Seidenberg recalled the speeches Julien gave and the way every player bought in.
"I remember how calm he was just saying to us, 'Stay in the moment. Don't get away from our system. Forget what the series score is. This game is 0-0.' That was huge," Seidenberg said. "You could see in the guys' eyes each time how much they bought in and believed him. We always believed in him and it was so clear then."
According to Seidenberg, the Bruins' ability to stay even-keeled throughout those series started after their devastating collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 playoffs, when they blew a 3-0 series lead. From that point on, the core of the Bruins rode a roller-coaster of emotions but Julien didn't let them get too high or too low.
"You think of how things were after we lost to Philly in 2010 and then to all the highs and lows of last season and the fact we won the Cup just shows what a great coach he is," Seidenberg said. "No matter what happened he just made sure we stuck to the system and we were all still on board and it paid off."
As Andrew Ference pointed out, there is a reason Claude Julien has outlasted some of his players in Boston. The adage is that you can't fire a team so the coach is usually the one to get the axe. While that was the case in his previous coaching stints in New Jersey and Montreal, he's hung on here.
"Some coaches work well with some groups of guys and with a different group of guys that might not work so well," Ference said. "Different personalities and different players, some really mesh well with a coach and some don't. There's been personalities on this team where they didn't mesh well and they stick out.
"But the majority of guys here, we get it and we appreciate the honesty and the way he approaches the locker room and the games throughout the season. So the guys that mesh well, they're still here and you get success that way. It's just a good fit right now where everyone is on the same page."
That's why it felt good for Ference and his teammates to win the Cup not only for each other, but also for Julien and his staff, whom he considers teammates as well.
"The coaching staff, they're part of the team," Ference said. "They're like a teammate in a way where there does have to be good communication and a good atmosphere. Just as you'd feel proud for a teammate, you feel proud for the coaches. They're part of the team as much as the players are."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.