August 12, 2011

Fischler Report: Champ coach Julien remains underappreciated

Claude Julien (photo: Getty)

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien – for some strange reason – has not received enough credit for steering his Bruins to the Stanley Cup.

What are the reasons? One possibility is that the sage mentor is simply too low-key.

Another is that some members of sports and media who had suggested that he be fired mid-season simply are refusing to acknowledge his superiority behind the bench.

Observations

* Commissioner Gary Bettman is verbally, spiritually and realistically committed to keeping the Islanders precisely where they are right now -- in Nassau County. Ditto for Long Island resident Charles Wang, who already has spent millions to sustain his franchise.

The trick now is how to fund an urgently-needed new arena. As sports-business journalist Evan Weiner points out, other similar lost-arena projects have been rescued in an assortment of ways. There's time and plenty of brainpower involved to find a formula that will work for all concerned.

Gossip

* For all its seeming allure to NHLers without jobs, the Kontinental Hockey League still carries a third world aura about it.

One former NHLer – a high first-round draft pick, at that -- says that the one year he spent playing in Russia was disheartening, to say the least. His beef? The owners of the club for which he played simply stopped paying him.

* One of the more fascinating training camp scenarios will involve goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who originally refused his invite to the Islanders in 2010-11. Apparently, the Russian rubber-stopper has changed his mind, saying he’ll show up at camp next month and -- who knows? – he could make an interesting run at the top slots currently occupied by Rick DiPietro (Winthrop, Mass.) and Al Montoya.

* No matter what Roberto Luongo does from October through April, the Canucks’ enigmatic goaltender will be judged by his performance in the 2012 playoffs. Period!

* Few enjoy media pressure more than insightful – and incite-full – Brian Burke (Providence, R.I.). And nobody responds to the press with more trenchant humor than the Maple Leafs boss. But Toronto had better make a better playoff run this year or the Queen City fourth estaters will be on his case like never before.

* And that charge will be led by Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. His latest salvo: “An Open Book Exam Question: Who is the best player on the Leafs and where does he rank in the NHL? After a lot of shuffling paper and counting, I came up with Phil Kessel as best player and his rank in the NHL somewhere between 45 and 60. Next question: Name the last Stanley Cup champion to be led by the 45th best player in the NHL?”

* No official NHL announcement has come forth regarding next year's Winter Classic, slated for Philadelphia (Rangers vs. Flyers at Citizens Bank Park) but it looms as the most successful ever. The clamor for tickets already has begun and soon will be overwhelming.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.