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Scotty Bowman believes Canadiens made right choice

Legendary former coach says Claude Julien can handle pressure that comes with Montreal job

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- Scotty Bowman, perhaps more than any coach in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, knows what Claude Julien is walking into on his second tour of duty in this city.

The most successful coach in NHL history, Bowman won the Stanley Cup five times with the Canadiens during the glorious 1970s. He would go on to win a sixth with the Pittsburgh Penguins and three more with the Detroit Red Wings, but Bowman made his name in coaching with the mighty Canadiens, and nearly a dozen players from those teams were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"Montreal is a special place," Bowman said Tuesday afternoon, breaking from a Valentine's Day dinner with his wife, Suella, when he learned the news of Michel Therrien's firing and Julien being named his replacement.

"The fans there have been spoiled with a lot of championships - not spoiled, maybe, but history is on their side.

"Claude did a good job with the Canadiens when he began his career (coaching through three seasons between 2002-03 and 2005-06), and he did a good job in New Jersey and won a Stanley Cup in Boston. He knows the city and the expectations. And he knows the media."

Video: Kevin Weekes on the Canadiens' new head coach

The reporting landscape has changed dramatically since Bowman coached in Montreal, what with social media, 24-hour open-line talk radio and 20,000-plus general managers in the stands for every home game.

"Claude's not going to get riled with the media," Bowman said. "He's a good coach. You don't coach 10 years with one team and win a Stanley Cup unless you can do the job."

Bowman recalled his days trying to satisfy the media of two languages, Canadiens fans and reporters happy with the team win or tie.

"When I was there they didn't have social media but they had five newspapers," he said. "You had five writers grasping for straws. I felt bad for those guys, they knew what they had to do, and that was to get one up on the other guys. It's like they were competing in the standings.

"Social media will get even more people involved now because that reports everything. When you're in the position that Claude is now, this is impossible to do, but it's better not to read the papers or the Internet. You'll ask, 'What are they saying about me?' and if you're not doing well, they're not saying good things."

Bowman admitted he doesn't know Julien as a close friend, but everyone he's spoken to told him the coach is well respected and well liked. That won't hurt as he dips his toe into the Montreal coaching waters for the second time.

Canadiens icon Guy Lafleur, the winner of five Stanley Cup titles in the 1970s, believes the familiarity of Montreal won't hurt Julien's chances to succeed.

Video: Arpon Basu on the Canadiens' coaching change

"Claude comes in knowing the organization," he said. "I hope he's going to do well. He proved it with New Jersey and the Bruins."

Yvan Cournoyer, who captained the Canadiens from 1975-79, said he was "half and half" surprised by the news of Therrien's firing.

"(General manager) Marc Bergevin can be very conservative and we're still in first place (in the Atlantic Division). Sometimes it can be good, sometimes bad to change a coach during the season.

"But I think Julien is better now than he was when he started his career here. He had a chance to coach in the Stanley Cup Final and win a Cup with Boston."

Cournoyer believes having coached in Montreal, and grown up 100 miles down the road as a Canadiens fan in Orleans, Ontario, will help Julien now.

Video: NHL Now: Canadiens fire Therrien, hire Claude Julien

"It's a heck of a thing when a coach arrives here from the outside," he said. "Montreal is a special place. Julien knows that. He can cope with the pressure."

Cournoyer recalled speaking with Julien when the latter was fired by the Canadiens midway through the 2005-06 season, offering him a little advice.

"I think Claude had just bought a house and I told him, 'Claude, when you coach, never buy a house. Rent!' " he said with a laugh. "He's a different guy now, he's done well in New Jersey and Boston.

"But today, it's how quick you can win the Cup. Years ago, you'd say, 'We can take five years to win.' Today, first of all, you don't want to miss the playoffs (as the Canadiens did last season). Once you're there, have a chance to win. All the injuries we've had the last two, three months, well, now everybody is back. Julien will have his own team. He's like a new captain on the ship. Starting from Friday in practice, it's his job to do his best and make the playoffs."

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