The Bruins had one of the best in the business for the past three years in Craig Ramsay. But he may have been too good. His work with the Boston defense did get him noticed, and Atlanta hired him as the Thrashers’ new head coach in June.
"He was a big part of our coaching staff," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli when the news broke about Ramsay’s departure.
"He’s a real calming guy," added Chiarelli. "He’s really good one-on-one with guys. Ton of experience. He can communicate with the guys on a level that, when you’re day-to-day and you have to communicate and tell guys what they’re doing wrong, it gets tiresome from both sides. He can really connect that way to the players. And he still can be passionate."
Ramsay, 59, excelled in developing young players, and one of his prize pupils was defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who went from a healthy scratch at the start of the season to a top-pairing performer in the playoffs under Ramsay’s tutelage last year.
"He helped me quite a bit," said Boychuk. "He would always talk to me, even when I wasn’t playing. He would show me drills in practice to work on my foot speed, my decision-making, almost everything about my defensive game, just to make it better. He’s a great coach and I wish him well."
For the first time since taking over behind the Boston bench in 2007, Bruins head coach Claude Julien found himself searching for a new assistant to fill out his staff. Ramsay left some big skates to fill, but the Bruins might have found the perfect replacement in Doug Jarvis.
Like Ramsay, Jarvis, 55, brings plenty of experience to the post. He served as an assistant with the Stars for 14 years, while also working as a head coach for Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton for two years and as an associate coach in Montreal for four seasons, including Julien’s final year with the Canadiens. And like Ramsay, Jarvis was a forward who excelled at the defensive side of the game. Jarvis won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward in 1983-84, one year before Ramsay took home the honor in 1984-85.
"I think he’s got a lot of the same things that Craig had as far as the hockey knowledge and the experience," said Julien. "He’s a guy that’s won a lot of Stanley Cups as a player and as a coach, so he’s got that behind him.
"Even working with the defensemen, he’s a lot like Craig Ramsay in that he’s a former forward that also worked with the D. He’s also had great success in Montreal dealing with the power play," added Julien. "He’s been in all kinds of different situations and I think that’s what’s good about it. He’s got the same kind of experience as Craig. With his personality and the way he works with players, I think you’re going to see a smooth transition. The guys are going to gravitate to Doug as quick as they gravitated to Craig."
Jarvis brings a lot of the same qualities Ramsay added to the Bruins staff, but he won’t be assuming exactly the same duties. Instead, incumbent assistant Doug Houda will be moving down from the press box to take Ramsay’s spot on the bench alongside Julien.
Jarvis, in turn, will take over Houda’s former post up top, serving as the club’s eye in the sky, watching the plays develop from that vantage point and helping the team make adjustments between periods.
"It will be a different perspective, one I’m looking forward to," said Jarvis. "From up top there’s certainly a need to have an eye on the game and making in-game adjustments and getting that information down to the bench. I think other things that go along with that role will be pre-scouting the opposition in preparation for games and I think doing a lot of the normal things coaches do, whether it’s working with players one-on-one with video and obviously jumping in on practice with the other coaches in drills."
Jarvis will have plenty of help, as the rest of Julien’s staff remains intact. In addition to Houda, Geoff Ward returns for his fourth season as an assistant and Bob Essensa is back for his eighth season as the club’s goaltending coach.
Houda, 44, was a holdover from Dave Lewis’ staff, but has meshed well with Julien since Chiarelli corrected the Lewis debacle in 2007. A former defenseman who logged 561 games in the NHL with six different teams, Houda has the defensive background to continue Ramsay’s work in that area. Under Julien, the Bruins have gone from 29th in the league with a 3.48 goals-against average in 2006-07 to 11th in 2007-08 (2.62 GAA), then all the way to first in 2008-09 (2.32) and second last year (2.33).
Ramsay’s work was instrumental in that improvement, but Julien obviously was the driving force in turning around the club after back-to-back last-place finishes in the Northeast Division. Now he’ll look to continue the club’s ascent with a helping hand from Jarvis.
"This is a guy I brought in to Montreal from Hamilton," said Julien, who won the Adams Trophy as the league’s coach of the year in 2009. "We had good chemistry. He’s going to blend in perfectly. I think it will be a smooth transition."
NESN.com will answer one Bruins question every day in August.
Monday, Aug. 16: Will the Bruins’ fourth line be worth the money?
Wednesday, Aug. 18: What will a full season of Dennis Seidenberg mean to the defense?