With Bruins eyeing the division lead, Claude Julien is earning praise

Hot and not

JonesMartin Jones, San Jose Sharks
Jones threw up a wall against the Calgary Flames, making 47 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory that improved the Sharks' road record to a league-best 24-9-3.

LuongoRoberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Luongo was pulled from the Panthers' 5-4 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins after allowing four goals on 16 shots in the first period. He has now lost back-to-back starts

Is Claude Julien the coach of the year?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Shouldn't Claude Julien be in the conversation for the Jack Adams Award, given to the league's coach of the year? A 5-4 overtime win against the Florida Panthers moved Julien past Art Ross to become the Boston Bruins' all-time wins leader with 388. It was also yet another key win in a surprising season for a team that many, including myself, predicted during the preseason would take a step back as a public retooling took place under first-year GM Don Sweeney. As you may remember, Julien's future hung in the air for a good six weeks last offseason before Sweeney announced Julien was coming back as coach. Smart move by Sweeney, because a first-year GM should always keep his first coaching change in his back pocket as long as he can. Still, Julien was seen by many as candidate to be fired if things went off the rails this season, and deep down he probably felt the same way. And I know of a few teams that were ready to pounce on him if that happened. Thing is, he's just so good a coach that he has the Bruins overachieving. What say you, gang?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: I was thinking about our post-trade deadline assessment of the Bruins as Lee Stempniak delivered the winner against the Panthers on Monday night. Seeing Sweeney send out a second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round pick (plus a prospect) to bring in pending free agents Stempniak (who added two assists in Monday's win) and John-Michael Liles (who collected an assist on Stempniak's game winner) seemed a bit counterintuitive for a team that looked to be stockpiling assets. But here the Bruins are, tied with Florida at 81 points, and just a point back of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the compressed Atlantic Division. Could Julien lead the Bruins to another division title? Sure, but either way this is a team that looks like it's going to be a handful come playoff time. I still think the Washington Capitals' Barry Trotz and the Anaheim Ducks' Bruce Boudreau, who squared off in a dynamite game in Anaheim on Monday night, will be in the discussion, as will the Chicago Blackhawks' Joel Quenneville. Still, I think it's fair to say the Bruins are one of the most surprising teams headed down the stretch towards the playoffs.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: One of the things I'm looking for in a coach of the year candidate is a guy who has cultivated growth and improvement in a group throughout the season, and there's no doubt Julien has done that in Boston. You mentioned this season perhaps being a step back in Boston, Pierre, but I wonder if that's being reconsidered now, especially with the way management handled the trade deadline. You don't trade a slew of draft picks if you're truly in the middle of retooling of the organization. Julien has done a fantastic job this season in Boston and definitely should be in consideration, although if I'm giving it to an Eastern Conference coach, it's Trotz. Still, you can't go wrong with either selection.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: Julien should undoubtedly be a serious contender for the Jack Adams. Until last season, the Bruins knew nothing but consistency under Julien, and Bruins owner Jeremy Jacons said during a conversation in December that he applauded the job by Julien, and said the coach should be a candidate for the Jack Adams. Julien has dealt with a restructuring of the organization, both on and off the ice, and the roster is completely different during this soft rebuild. Boston is still in the playoff structure, though, and should earn a postseason berth. Many believe Julien's job would once again be at risk if the team went one-and-done in the playoffs, and if that was the case it wouldn't take him long to land another job. Imagine if he ended up back with the Montreal Canadiens? The Bruins have survived this season for a few reasons, but you have to give Julien his kudos. I wasn't in Florida for that game Monday, but I'm sure Julien said he was humbled by his accomplishment. All he needs now is a few more championships to catch up to the status of Bill Belichick in Boston.

Around the league