Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has spent much of the past two offseasons trying to keep the core of the club's 2011 Stanley Cup championship together.
On Monday, he locked up one of the most important, if often woefully underappreciated, pieces by signing head coach Claude Julien to a multi-year extension.
Julien, 52, had been set to enter the final year of his current deal, but now will not face the prospect of a lame duck season. Nor should he, with the Bruins just one year removed from that championship, which ended a 39-year Cup drought for the franchise.
Julien played a vital role in that championship run, pushing all the right buttons on and off the ice as he juggled line combinations and defense pairs and kept the team focused and upbeat despite falling behind 2-0 in both the first-round series against Montreal and the Cup Final against the Canucks. The Bruins won three Game 7s that spring, including the clinching 4-0 win in Vancouver.
The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of Julien's five seasons behind the Boston bench. That tenure began in 2007 when he took over a team that had finished dead last in the Northeast Division in each of the previous two seasons under Mike Sullivan and Dave Lewis.
Last-place finishes quickly became a thing of the past for the Bruins under Julien, who has guided Boston to three division titles — including the first back-to-back Northeast crowns since that division was introduced in 1993-94 — and three 100-point campaigns.
Julien won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL coach of the year in 2008-09 after the Bruins finished first in the Eastern Conference with 116 points. He ranks third in franchise history with 410 games coached and is fourth in wins with a 228-132-50 record, good for a .617 winning percentage. He should move into second in Bruins history in the upcoming season, as he is within range of Don Cherry (231 wins) and Milt Schmidt (245), and could eventually challenge Art Ross (361) for the top spot in team history.
Julien already holds the franchise record for playoff wins with 36. He led the Bruins out of the opening round for the time in a decade with a sweep of the Canadiens in 2009 and also reached the conference semifinals in 2010 before breaking through with the 2011 Cup run.
Chiarelli and Julien will meet with the media to discuss the extension in a news conference at the Garden on Tuesday.
Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.