What seemed inevitable finally became a reality this morning, and everything the Golden Knights have said to be looking for is now available in one 58-year old Canadian package.
Former Stanley Cup and Jack Adams award (best coach) winner Claude Julien was fired by the Boston Bruins after nine and a half seasons in Beantown. The Bruins made the playoffs in each of Julien’s first seven seasons behind the bench before coming up three points short last year.
I could go on and on about the wonders of this guy’s career, but I’m pretty sure that’s why they made this Wikipedia thing everyone keeps telling me about. Instead, let’s look at it from the Vegas perspective. If you look back through the history of what George McPhee has been saying he wants running the show here in Vegas, he’s basically described Julien without ever saying his name.
Experienced, a guy the hockey community knows, fits the culture, and someone who they do not have to evaluate. Julien also brings one more aspect that no one would ever admit is necessary, legitimacy.
When the Golden Knights became a reality they were met with critics from all over the world (especially Canada). Then they hired George McPhee, then Kelly McCrimmon, and eventually added David Conte, Scott Luce, Misha Donskov, and a bunch more top level scouts and operations guys that has hockey insiders unanimously claiming Vegas has done remarkably well putting together its first front office. But hockey fans aren’t that easily convinced. Many have heard of McPhee, but the rest of the names on that list aren’t exactly high profile to your everyday working Joe.
Claude Julien is.
Since it’s inception the Golden Knights haven’t had it easy in the court of public opinion. The name was (still is) widely loathed. The trademark situation is a continued running joke. Locals miss the Las. And then there’s VideoGate, the scene, the name the team contest, and many other perceived mishaps that have gone on in the first seven months. But there’s one thing all of these issues had in common… they have nothing to do with hockey.
No one has anything real to complain about because when it comes to hockey operations, this team is kicking ass and taking names. The staff put in place had such a great foundation that no one batted an eye when they brought in a 25 year old scout, a salary cap website manager, a lawyer with no previous hockey experience, and a head trainer who’s only ever worked for the French circus. Add Claude Julien’s name to the list, and you go from legitimate in the eyes of the hockey obsessed to legitimate in the eyes of even the most novice hockey fan.
Winning on the ice is really all that matters, and as much as we can try to sell you Gerrard Gallant, Jack Capuano, Kirk Muller, or anyone else available at the moment, no one comes close to Julien.
In the end it will likely come down to Julien’s willingness to come to place far less hockey crazy than his previous gigs. His desire to take over a team starting from scratch and likely without the promise of striking it rich for at least five years. And his belief in an organization that has nothing to show for itself but hope, season ticket deposits, and PR nightmares.
Whether Vegas is the right fit for him, only he knows, but if I had it my way, I’d put The Creator and McPhee on the next flight to Boston to do everything in the book to try and convince this man to pack his bags and join us in the desert.
Here’s a blank check Claude, it’s time to become a Sir Julien.