WILMINGTON, Mass. — Maybe it was having had to deal with Vancouver for the past week or maybe it was just his own natural empathy after having dealt with the firestorm of media coverage in Montreal himself, but whatever the reason, there was a bit of an olive branch offered in the Bruins' longest running feud on Wednesday when coach Claude Julien showed a rare display of compassion for his Canadiens counterpart.
Julien and the Bruins are busy getting ready for Thursday's clash with the club's oldest rival, but the Boston coach did offer some kind words for new Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth, who's been subjected to a barrage of criticism, complaints and even organized fan protests since being named the Habs' interim coach on Dec. 17.
The issue isn't Montreal's 3-7-0 record since Cunneyworth took over. Instead, it's the fact that Cunneyworth doesn't speak French that has many in the Province of Quebec up in arms.
"I feel for him a little bit because he's been picked on for not being able to speak the language," Julien said after Boston's practice Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena. "And yet at the same time, I think the most important thing right now for him is to right the ship in Montreal.
"I think the people, knowing them over there, will certainly appreciate him making an effort to learn the language and do that," Julien added. "And what people have to realize too, it's important for them over there to have somebody that can communicate. And I'm not saying that that's not Randy. If he makes an effort, they're open to that."
Julien, who speaks both French and English and coached Montreal for parts of three seasons from 2003-06, was also sympathetic to the concerns of French-speaking Montreal fans.
"When you look at the province, and you look at the followers, a lot of it is about French," Julien said. "And media-wise, as you guys know, if I came here and couldn't speak English, it'd certainly make your job pretty hard. So you've just got to reverse it a little bit. And if I had to speak French and somebody had to translate everything, it's tough for you guys to sell the product. So you've got to understand both sides of it. But for Randy, I've known him for a while, if he says he's going to learn the language, he will. I think they're going to be open to that and all he's got to do right now is right the ship for them."
Julien and the Bruins just don't want Cunneyworth to start righting the ship on Thursday in Boston. This détente does have its limits after all.
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