TORONTO – Claude Julien won’t be stranded on the NHL’s unemployment line for long, according to Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.
“Good, good, good man. Even better coach. Someone out there is happy today,” Babcock said Tuesday morning, with a smile on his face.
“I mean, you ain’t getting better. When you make these decisions, you better have a guy in mind that’s better than that guy. Not many, I can tell you that.”
The Boston Bruins fired Julien, the league’s longest-tenured active coach Tuesday, the same day the city hosts the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl parade. Assistant Bruce Cassidy was named interim head coach.
Julien leaves the Bruins as the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (419). Under his leadership, Boston made the playoffs in seven of nine seasons and captured a Stanley Cup in 2011.
Sharing a bench with Babcock on the international stage, Julien helped lead Team Canada to victories at the 2014 Olympic Games and 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff was also part of the 2014 gold-medal-winning staff.
“Great guy to be around. I know players like playing for him. It’s a tough one,” Ruff said.
“I’m sure he won’t be out of it long if he chooses not to be out of it long. It’s where this league is right now: how tight it is, what every win means. In Claude’s case, I find that hard.”
Not unlike Babcock in the summer of 2015, Julien will fetch considerable interest from a number of teams as a free agent this off-season.
Coincidentally, the Leafs’ thrilling 6-5 victory over Boston Saturday night marked Julien’s final game as Boston’s coach.
Babcock offered a bit of advice to his friend.
“Enjoy some time with your bride and your kids. Get freshened up, call the U-Haul business and get ready to go,” Babcock said.
“Sometimes, to be honest with you, it’s time to move on. Julie was a helluva coach, though.”