Claude Julien was not unemployed for very long after being fired by the Boston Bruins last week, as he was named as the replacement for Michel Therrien behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
While the Canadiens lead the Atlantic Division with 70 points this season, the organization felt it was time to make a change behind the bench as they were in a little slide after going 1-5-1 in their last seven games. Therrien was in the fifth season of his second stint at the helm with the Canadiens.
Julien who was fired by the Bruins on February 7th, last coached in Montreal from 2003 to 2006. Ironically, he replaced Therrien, 14 years ago, as well.
With the Canadiens on their five-day break, the first practice under Julien is scheduled for Friday at 4:00 PM.
Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin, is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11:00 Wednesday morning to announce the coaching change. Julien will have a conference call with the media at around 1:00 PM.
Like last season, the Canadiens jumped out of the gate on a hot streak before cooling off as the season progressed. During the 2015-2016 National Hockey League season, Montreal won its first nine games and went 17-4-2, before goaltender, Carey Price went down with a knee injury in late November. The rest of the season, they put up a 21-34-4 record and fell short of the playoffs.
During the offseason, Bergevin made a bunch of big moves hoping to avoid a similar fate for 2016-2017. The most notable trade being sending defenseman, P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for defenseman, Shea Weber.
He also acquired Alex Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks, signed free agent forward, Alexander Radulov and sent Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals.
While injuries to Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Andrei Markov during December and January may have been a contributing factor in the slump, as their players started to get healthy they could not get back on the winning side.
Back-to-back losses over the weekend, a 4-2 defeat to the St. Louis Blues at home and a 4-0 shutout by the Bruins at the TD Garden helped to prompt the coaching change. The game in Boston was the third time in five games they were unable to light the lamp.
Left wing, Max Pacioretty told Sportsnet.ca, “As a player, especially as the captain, you feel guilty. Ultimately, if we had performed better, especially as of late, then you do not force management to have to make a decision like this. We definitely have been underperforming as of late, but I feel it is on the players. We have seen around the league that this tends to be the result when teams do not step up and perform. I have nothing but great things to say about Michel and that is what makes it pretty tough for me.”
Gallagher added, “It is just one of those things where we had gotten away from our identity as a team. In no way am I blaming the coach for that, that is more on us as players. I think as a group, we have just got to get back to what made us successful.”
Bergevin said, “I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice a new direction. Claude Julien is an experienced and well-respected coach with good knowledge of the Montreal market. Claude has been very successful as an NHL coach and he won a Stanley Cup. Today we hired on the best available coach, and one of the league’s best. I am convinced that he has the capabilities to get our team back on the winning track.”
After spending the past nine seasons with the Bruins, he led Boston to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2013. When the Bruins fired him last week, they had been in second place in the Atlantic with a 26-23-6 record.
In 14 seasons with the Bruins, Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, he has won 538 games. His third game, in this second stint with the Canadiens, will be his 1,000 as an NHL coach.