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Canadiens fire Michel Therrien, hire Claude Julien

New coach begins second tenure in Montreal after being let go by Bruins

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien on Tuesday.

Julien was fired by the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7. He coached the Canadiens from 2003-06 and also replaced Therrien to begin his previous stint as Montreal coach.

Video: Canadiens fire Michel Therrien, hire Claude Julien

Therrien was in the fifth season of his second tenure as coach of the Canadiens (31-19-8), who lead the Atlantic Division with 70 points but are 1-5-1 in their past seven games. Since starting the season 13-1-1, they are 18-18-7.

The Canadiens are in the middle of a five-day break. Their next game is against the Winnipeg Jets at home Saturday (2 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV). Their first practice under Julien is scheduled for Friday.

Montreal required permission from Boston to speak with Julien because he had one year remaining on his contract with the Bruins prior to being fired Tuesday. 

This is the second straight season the Canadiens have gotten off to a hot start only to cool off. Montreal won its first nine games and was 17-4-2 on Nov. 25, 2015, when goaltender Carey Price was lost for the season because of a knee injury. The Canadiens went 21-34-4 the rest of the season and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

READ: Claude Julien NHL timeline

 

Bergevin made several moves in the offseason to try to keep that from happening again, most notably trading defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29. Bergevin also acquired forward Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks, signed forward Alexander Radulov as a free agent, and traded center Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals.

The Canadiens had to deal with significant injuries to center Alex Galchenyuk, right wing Brendan Gallagher and defenseman Andrei Markov in December and January, a contributing factor in Montreal's mediocre record over the past 2 1/2 months. But when players returned to health, the Canadiens did not start winning again. They lost back-to-back games over the weekend, 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues at home on Saturday and 4-0 at the Bruins on Sunday.

The loss in Boston on Sunday was the third time in five games the Canadiens were shut out.

"As a player, especially as the captain, you feel guilty," Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty told Sportsnet on Tuesday. "Ultimately, if we had performed better, especially as of late, then you don't force management to have to make a decision like this. We definitely have been underperforming as of late, but I feel it's on the players. We've seen around the League this tends to be the result when teams don't step up and perform. I have nothing but great things to say about Michel, and that's what makes this pretty tough for me."

Gallagher repeated something Price said following the loss in Boston, something that is difficult for any coach to hear from his players.

Video: Arpon Basu on the Canadiens' coaching change

"It's just one of those things where we had gotten away from our identity as a team," Gallagher told Sportsnet. "In no way am I blaming the coach for that, that's more on us as players. I think as a group we've just got to get back to what made us successful."

Perhaps because of that loss of identity, Bergevin felt he had to act quickly when Julien became available.

Video: Kevin Weekes on the Canadiens' new head coach

"I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice, a new direction," Bergevin said in a statement. "Claude Julien is an experienced and well-respected coach with a good knowledge of the Montreal market. Claude has been very successful as an NHL coach and he won the Stanley Cup. Today we hired 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."

Julien spent the past 10 seasons coaching the Bruins, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reaching the Cup Final in 2013. They were 26-23-6 and second in the Atlantic when he was fired.

Julien has 538 wins in 14 seasons with the Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Bruins. His third game with Montreal will be his 1,000th as an NHL coach.

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