WILMINGTON, Mass. — Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien knows he has to guide his team through one more game before an NHL-wide Olympic break. But he’s also starting to get excited as to what awaits him on the other side of Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
Julien will lead his club into battle one more time before the two-week break for the Winter Olympics. While many across the league will take those two weeks to get some rest and relaxation, Julien will be Sochi-bound, where he’ll serve as an associate head coach for Team Canada. Working under Mike Babcock and alongside Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock, Julien will be in Russia where he’ll represent his country in Canada’s bid to repeat as gold medalists.
Now that the trip to Russia is near — Julien will leave from Newark on Sunday — the Boston head coach is allowing himself to get excited for the opportunity. Julien is no stranger to pressure after two trips to the Stanley Cup Final in three years, and he’s looking forward to embracing the pressure that comes with being a part of Hockey Canada.
“Whether it’s the stress or the pressure, that’s there, but to me, it’s always been about how you deal with that,” an excited Julien said Friday after Bruins practice. “Do you fear it or do you thrive on that? That’s the way I’ve always been. I love those situations. I love those opportunities and I’m looking forward to this one. [Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli] just asked me today if I’m looking forward to going and if I’m getting excited. I said, yeah, this is probably one of the first days I’m starting to feel it. We’ve got one game left and my focus is on that game, but at the same time, we’re just a couple of days away from leaving. So it is getting pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to representing my country.”
Julien also expressed his excitement in getting to work alongside some pretty sharp hockey minds like Babcock, Hitchcock and Ruff. That coaching staff is comprised of some of the league’s top head coaches, and there will be plenty of time for bouncing ideas and strategy off of each other. Julien is hoping that he can hold up his end of the bargain in helping Babcock. But at the same time, Julien also knows he and the rest of the coaching staff aren’t being viewed as just “assistant” head coaches.
“I’ve been an assistant before; I started off my career as an assistant and I’ve been there,” he said. “At the same time, as a head coach, I expect certain things from my assistants, so it’s my turn now to live by my words and expectations. Mike Babcock’s been great. We’re not called assistants, we’re called associate coaches because that’s the way he feels. For him, it’s important we share our thoughts and our ideas. He’s been really good at listening to everybody. You’re an associate coach and you’re always going to support the head guy, but at the same time, I feel we have a lot of leverage as far as piping in and giving our 10 cents worth.”
“I’ve grown a lot from just being around those other coaches,” Julien said. “[They’re] all great coaches. When you together, it’s not just about the systems and philosophies and exchanging that to see why. A lot of that stuff just makes sense. You become a better coach just by sharing that information among each other.”
Julien’s eager anticipation is probably helped along by the fact that the Bruins are playing good hockey heading into the break. The B’s are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and will wrap up their pre-Olympic schedule on Saturday afternoon when they host the Senators at TD Garden.