My Most Recent Column for the Daily Free Press

Indirect Kick: Who’s to blame for the Bruins’ poor start?

The 2015-16 NHL season is finally underway and one of the biggest storylines is the number of winless teams through the first few weeks. The Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins were all 0-3 to start the season.

Joining this trio with three emphatic home losses in five days was the Boston Bruins. After being outscored 16-7 through three games, the Bruins finally notched one in the win column with a 6-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 14.

This rough start to the season is just the tip of the iceberg for the Bruins. They missed the playoffs last season, overhauled their front office this summer, traded half the team away and wasted three consecutive draft choices on prospects who won’t see NHL action for a few years. At the center of this controversy is head coach Claude Julien.

Julien has been behind the Bruins bench since the start of the 2007-08 season, and has led his team to the playoffs in seven of his eight seasons. But, after winning two Prince of Wales Trophies and a Stanley Cup, the clock is about to strike midnight on the Julien Era.

It’s an unfortunate truth but it’s a move that must be made. And it has nothing to do with Julien’s ability to coach. If that was ever in doubt, he would never have been hired. Instead, it’s an issue of a new front office bringing in its own coach.

However, I believe Julien deserves to stay. I mean, come on. You can’t finish a puzzle if you aren’t given all the pieces. If anything, Julien should remain coach just on the sheer principle of the way Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and the new front office has blown up his team.

The Bruins really need to fix themselves quickly, but consider all the other teams who are off to rough starts. There is still hope for the Bruins and it’s not impossible for them to make the playoffs this year.

Looking at the situation statistically, the Bruins are certainly struggling defensively. Goaltender Tuukka Rask, despite his abysmal goals-against average, cannot be blamed for the poor defensive showing on the part of the black and gold.

Against the Winnipeg Jets, of the six goals the Jets scored, two came directly off a turnover in the defensive zone, one came on a breakaway and another went into an empty net. In essence, Rask was only to blame for two tallies.

The same goes for the games against the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, where defensive lapses were prevalent. However, in Colorado, something finally clicked and the Bruins blue liners only conceded twice against the Avalanche with Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes.

The Bruins are missing Dennis Seidenberg, who is dealing with a back injury. An experienced defenseman, his contributions are extremely missed at the moment, as evident in the Bruins’ struggle to tame opposing offenses.

Captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara is also working back to full health. Breaking a rib in preseason, the 6-foot-9 Slovakian has struggled to play at full capacity due to his ailment. His contribution, albeit limited, is evident through his three assists in his first three games.

Even with Chara and Seidenberg at full health, there are still only five defensemen on the roster who have full-time NHL experience. Five. You need six defenseman. This is a huge problem for the B’s.

The team traded away Johnny Boychuk last season for god knows who, and this past offseason, the team parted ways with Dougie Hamilton as well. Those are two defenders who should still be donning the spoked B. But alas, all they got in return were some draft picks.

The motto “defense wins championships” really should be carved in stone, framed and given to both former GM Peter Chiarelli and Sweeney because they destroyed the Bruins.

Offensively, the Bruins lost a few key elements and some of their long-time players are underperforming. However, that isn’t any concern, as goals will come like they did against Colorado. Goaltending is also something to be confident about. For the first time in two years, the Bruins have a legitimately talented tandem between the pipes.

So let’s not get distracted here. It is clear that the real problem is defense. Not goaltending, not offense and certainly not Claude Julien. The front office needs to wake up, make a big splash by acquiring a notable defenseman, and revive the Bruins.

So for everyone looking for someone to point a finger at, you should be looking in the direction of the front office, not Julien.

Fans just need to take a breath and relax. There are 82 games in a season and a lot can happen between now and April. The Bruins will be fine. If not this year, then next, but it can’t get much worse.

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