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Back to his roots

Claude Julien is ready to begin his second stint behind the Habs bench

by Shauna Denis @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - A week after being let go by the Boston Bruins, Claude Julien has already found himself a new hockey home.

The veteran bench boss wasn't out of work long before his phone rang while on vacation in Vermont.

Tapped by Marc Bergevin to replace Michel Therrien behind the Habs bench - the second time he will do so in Montreal after first taking the reins from Therrien in January 2003 - Julien is looking forward to leading the Atlantic division-leading Habs into the home stretch of the season.

"We're going to play as a team. We're going to play with some pace. We're going to try to create some pride in all aspects of our game. When you play with pride, it makes a big difference. We're going to try to create that from inside the dressing room," confirmed Julien, during an hour-long conference call from his home in Boston. "But I'm taking over a team that's in first place. We can't forget the good things the team did at the start of the year."

Video: Conference call: Claude Julien

After leaving Montreal in January 2006, Julien spent a year in New Jersey before moving to Boston, where he remained the NHL's longest-tenured coach until he was let go on February 7. Having spent the last decade behind the bench of the Canadiens' biggest rival, he's had plenty of opportunity to scout his new team with a critical eye over the years - including during three regular season games in 2016-17.

"They skate well, they've got a good balance of grit and skill and some size. We all know they've got the best goaltender in the world. They're solid in the back end and there's a lot of talent up front," praised Julien, who in addition to having coached Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec in Montreal, also got to know Carey Price and Shea Weber during his time winning gold as an assistant coach with Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics and again during the World Cup of Hockey in September. "That's not to say that we don't have to fix things and make them better. That's my job. I'm here to fix and tweak and do things that will put this team back on track. The key for me is to maximize that potential and give the team the best chance to win."

Winning is something Julien knows about, having compiled a 538-332-10-117 record in 997 NHL games as a head coach. Despite having coached just 159 of those games with Montreal, he admits it's fitting that he'll hit a major career milestone where it all started a decade-and-a-half ago.

"Growing up in the Ottawa area, I was a Canadiens fan," shared the Orleans, ON native, who inked a five-year deal with the Canadiens. "It was a dream when I got to coach the team many years ago. Having the chance to coach my 1,000th NHL game with the Canadiens will be special. It's a team I've loved since I was a child."

With his players still enjoying some much-needed rest during the CBA-mandated bye-week, Julien will have a little extra time for chalk talk with his new coworkers before his first official day on the job on Friday afternoon.

"Communication right from the start will be very important. I'll certainly make little adjustments system-wise, but you can't come in in the middle of the season and change everything," stressed the 56-year-old, who won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011. "I am taking on a good team, I know that much, but I'm not going to stand here and start making these big assessments as far as wat it takes [to win]. I think it's up to us to show it versus talking about it."

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