Benchmarks: Mr. Six

When a hockey coach scores a six-point season, it means he met all the standards of success featured in my rating system: 1) he led his team to a winning season; 2) his team had a winning percentage of .600 or better; 3) he won his division; 4) earned a playoff appearance; 5) reached the Stanley Cup finals; and 6) won the Stanley Cup.

Winning the 2011 Stanley Cup is the culmination of Claude Julien’s eight seasons of NHL coaching. After he and his Bruins suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2010 playoffs against Philadelphia, Julien and the team spent 147 long days and nights contemplating that defeat and in that time derived new lessons and found new strengths within themselves.

The ancient Roman poet Virgil once wrote that “adversity has a way of eliciting talents which otherwise would have lain dormant.”

And so it was with Claude Julien and the Bruins….

When the bell rang for the 2010-11 season, the Bruins roared onto the ice and won their division by the largest margin in the entire Eastern Conference; playing hockey with a new ferocity hitherto unknown for a Claude Julien team.

Their defense remained intact, but a new team spirit infected their offense and a new fire, a controlled rage, goaded the team to newer heights… and newer possibilities.

When the playoffs came, Boston played brilliantly despite some topsy-turvy moments in the first and third rounds, gaining revenge against the Flyers in a brutal four-game sweep along the way.

When it came time for the finals to arrive, the Bruins momentarily forgot themselves, seemingly drunk on the lotus fruit of the Stanley Cup finals (a first for Claude Julien and several of his players), and then came the hit on Nathan Horton by Aaron Rome in Game Three.

The hit was a wake-up call that forced the Bruins to remember how they made it to the Stanley Cup finals in the first place. Aroused to their controlled fury, Boston put on a hockey clinic in the remaining five games and ended a 39-year Stanley Cup drought.

In the end, Claude Julien did what Bep Guidolin, Don Cherry, Terry O’Reilly and Mike Milbury failed to do when they reached the Stanley Cup finals: win.

And that is why Claude Julien is Mr. Six in my book.

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