BOSTON - When it came time for a decision on a new head coach, things ultimately boiled down to familiarity for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
While still a player at Harvard University some 20 years ago, Chiarelli would return to his native Ottawa in the summer and skate with a group of local professionals. Included in that group was a defenseman named Claude Julien, a minor leaguer with the AHL's Fredericton Express who had enjoyed a small taste of the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques.
Yesterday, Chiarelli announced that he had hired Julien to be the 28th coach of the Bruins - and at least part of his decision was rooted in his relationship with the coach.
Now, for the first time, that relationship becomes professional.
"I've known Claude for a long time," Chiarelli said yesterday during a press conference at the TD Banknorth Garden. "He brings with him the same level of discipline that he had as a player. He was a hard-nosed defenseman, and he wants his team to play the same way.
"When he was the coach in Montreal (with the Canadiens), he was able to cultivate all of the young players they had and turn it into a winning formula. He has shown the ability to elevate a young player's level of play, and that was certainly a factor in deciding on him. The familiarity I had with him probably gave him an inside track."
The Bruins become Julien's third NHL team in five seasons, having previously coached both the Canadiens (2004-06) and the New Jersey Devils (last season). The deal was finalized on Monday, but there was a delay in making an announcement because Chiarelli was in New York for the NHL Board of Governors' meetings.
"I'm here today because I am very comfortable with everything," said Julien. "I'm comfortable with the players here, the direction that Peter wants to take and all the way down to my contract.
"Today Peter is my boss, but there was a friendship there before. The biggest thing now is that we are on the same page and want to accomplish the same goals."
Quite ironic, considering people haven't had time to become familiar with recent Bruins coaches. Julien is the seventh head coach in the last 10 years and the third in the last calendar year.
Chiarelli has said it's time to, "hold the players accountable." While not known for being fiery, Julien has shown he can light a fire under his players.
"He isn't screamer, I know a lot of people are looking for a screamer, but that's not him," Chiarelli said. "He is a passionate guy who runs the team through discipline and demands accountability from his players.
"We both talked a lot about last year's team in our discussions - and we shared the same impressions."
Julien also played with Providence Bruins head coach Scott Gordon and assistant Rob Murray. Those connections should prove to be helpful in developing prospects down the pipeline in Providence.
"The good thing about this situation is that I've been in the league for quite a while and I've seen most of the players that we have on our roster and I know what they can and cannot do," said Julien. "It's going to be more of learning everyone's personality as a player; that's what we have exhibition games for."
When he was head coach of the Canadiens in the spring of 2004, his team trailed the Bruins 3 games to 1 in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series. A talk Julien had with his players in the locker room the day after Game 4 lit the spark that ignited the Canadiens to three straight wins and a come-from-behind series victory.
"We lost Game 4 in overtime ... the next day I had the biggest job to do, and that was convincing the players that we could come back," he said. "We took the big picture and sliced it up into a lot of smaller pictures - and we were lucky enough to have it work."
Julien doesn't come to Boston without some questions marks. Last April, he was fired as head coach of the Devils with just three games left in the regular season and his team in first place. He also was also fired by Montreal during the 2005-06 season.
"Coaches get fired; that happens," Chiarelli said. "I've known Claude for quite a while and I know that he is a solid person and more importantly an excellent coach. I did my due diligence in investigating, and I satisfied myself."
Julien's hiring marks the second coach hired by the Bruins who was fired by the New Jersey Devils with the team playoff bound as the regular season came to a close. Robbie Ftorek was fired by the Devils with eight games remaining in the 1999-00 regular season; that year, New Jersey went on to win the Stanley Cup. Julien was fired with three games left last season.
A Closer Look at Claude
Born: April 23, 1960 in Blind River, Ont.
Playing career: 15 seasons (1977-1992) almost exclusively in the minors; had one assists in 14 NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques
Coaching Career: Hull Olympiques, QMJHL (1996-2000); Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL (2000-2003), Montreal Canadiens (2003-2006, 72-62-17), New Jersey Devils (2006-2007, 49-24-0-9)
Family: Wife Karen, and daughter Katryna Chanel
A look ahead at the draft
"Our philosophy on drafting is to get the best player available. I'm trying to move up in the draft, but I don't think that I am going to be able to move up. I've gotten a lot of requests (from other teams) to move down. Our scouts have identified a pocket of players that we could still get even if we move down, but either way I think we will still get a player we will be happy with even if we stay at eight. There has been a lot more activity with this draft than in year's past. Absolutely I would also consider moving that pick for a player as well." - Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
Claude Julien is the Bruins' seventh coach in the last six-plus seasons (not including 2003-04 lockout season).