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Claude Julien, Canadiens agree to five-year contract

Coach would remain with Montreal through 2021-22 season, is ready to fix offense

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Barring an ideal opportunity, Claude Julien had every intention of taking the rest of the season off after he was fired as coach of the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7.

A week later, he replaced Michel Therrien as coach of the Montreal Canadiens and agreed to terms on a five-year contract through the 2021-22 season.

During a conference call from his home in Boston on Wednesday, Julien held off answering his first question to address Therrien, who Julien also replaced 14 years earlier when he was hired by Montreal to make his NHL coaching debut.

"I know exactly how Michel feels right now and it's certainly not easy for a coach to go to an organization knowing that he has taken the job of another," said Julien, who has coached 997 games with the Canadiens, Bruins and New Jersey Devils. "And I would like everyone to know that I have always had a lot of respect for Michel. He's a good coach. It's not easy to coach against him, especially when you're trying to get certain line matchups. He's very alert and I have known Michel for a long time and I want to wish him good luck. I'm sure he's going to be return as a coach at some point."

Julien, 56, won the Jack Adams Award in 2008-09 in his second of 10 seasons with the Bruins. Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011, lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Final two years later, and won the Presidents' Trophy in 2013-14 with 117 points.

Julien became the Bruins' winningest coach in 2015-16, but Boston missed the playoffs for the second straight season. He was 419-246-94 (.614 winning percentage) with the Bruins, including 26-23-6 this season when he was fired with Boston in third place in the Atlantic Division.


READ: Julien's hiring doesn't shock Canadiens legends


One week later, he took over the Canadiens, who lead the Atlantic Division with 70 points but entered its bye week with one win in its past seven games (1-5-1) following a 4-0 loss at Boston on Sunday.

Still reeling from being fired by the Bruins, Julien had just begun a vacation in Vermont when he was contacted by Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, who first got permission from Boston to talk to him.

Bergevin and Julien got to know each other when they worked on Team Canada's staff at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"To be honest, I intended to wait until maybe spring before making a decision," Julien said. "That was my initial reaction when I was fired. But once Marc got in touch with me, I had the opportunity to work with Marc at the [World Cup] and I had a great connection with him. I feel he's a good manager, he's a good person. It's important for me to work for good people."

As an assistant on Team Canada coach Mike Babcock's staff, Julien got better acquainted with Montreal goalie Carey Price and defenseman Shea Weber.

Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov and center Tomas Plekanec played for Julien during his first stint in Montreal, which has not had consecutive wins in 18 games since a three-game winning streak from Jan. 3-7.

The Canadiens are 6-10-2 since then; they have lost consecutive games and have been shut out in three of their past five.

"I think they're a good team," Julien said. "Listen, we all know probably they have got the best goaltender in the world, I would have to say, they're solid in the back end. That's not to say that we don't have to fix and make our team better, but at the same time there's a lot of talent up front. And I know that that talent has been a little dried up as far as the scoring goes lately, but we've got to fix all those things and that's my job.

"I'm here to kind of fix and tweak and do things that are going to put this team back on track, and that's what I intend to do. They've got good skill, they skate well, they've got a good balance of grit and skill and some size, and so basically I think that we're going to make sure that we exploit that and use it to the best of our knowledge and to the best of their abilities."

Video: NHL Tonight on the Canadiens hiring Claude Julien

Julien will be in Montreal on Thursday, though his family will remain in Boston through the end of the season. He will run his first practice Friday before beginning his second stint as Canadiens coach against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

Bergevin quantified Julien as a "superstar" among NHL coaches and called his hiring a "home run" that addressed Montreal's short- and long-term needs.

"We were just not playing our game," Bergevin said at a press conference at the Canadiens' practice facility Wednesday. "We were not the same team as we were earlier on. There was something missing and the team performance for me showed that there was something not right and the change had to be made."

He went to Therrien's home Tuesday and met with him for 20 minutes.

"I believe in my heart he knew," Bergevin said. "It was hard. It was hard for him, and hard for me. Mike is a guy that fought his whole life to get where he is today, and he's a fighter. And that's what makes him a great coach because he does fight. He fights until the end, and he fought until the end. And I told him, 'That's why I respect you and that's why you're going to have success moving forward,' because he's a fighter. And it was not easy, but it's not about me, it's not about Michel, it's not about one player, two players, it's about the hockey team and the Montreal Canadiens, and at the end of the day Michel understands and he was very respectful."

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