Following a recent stretch that saw the team drop 10 of their past 13 games, the Canadiens have decided to make a coaching change. The team announced that they have relieved head coach Michel Therrien of his duties and have hired Claude Julien as his replacement. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet tweets that the rest of the coaching staff will be retained for the time being.
“I would like to sincerely thank Michel for his relentless work with the Montreal Canadiens over his eight seasons behind the bench, including the last five seasons when we worked together,” said general manager Marc Bergevin. “The decision to remove Michel from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have lots of respect for him. 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 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.”
Therrien re-joined the organization back in 2012, and he led the team to the playoffs during his first three seasons. However, the team struggled last year, finishing with a .500 record for the first time since the 2011-2012 campaign. Bergevin made several bold moves this past offseason, and the team seemed to have regained their form, starting the campaign with a dominant 13-1-1 record. However, the squad has struggled recently, and despite sitting atop the Atlantic Division, their lead is quickly fading.
There were plenty of whispers that Therrien could find himself on the hot seat, as our own Mike Furland wrote yesterday. A number of teams recently saw an uptick in production following a coaching change, which perhaps added some fuel to the fire in Montreal.
This will be a reunion of sorts for Julien, who coached the Canadiens for 159 games in the early 2000s. The 56-year-old spent much of the past decade in Boston, where he led the team to seven playoff births and a Stanley Cup Championship. However, the Bruins failed to make the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, and their 26-23 record this season led to Julien’s firing earlier this month. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun tweets that the Canadiens asked the Bruins for permission to interview Julien on Sunday. In a subsequent tweet, LeBrun reports that multiple teams reached out to Boston in hopes that they could secure an interview with their former coach.
Ironically, this is the second time the organization has replaced Therrien with Julien, as the former head coach was replaced by the future Bruins head coach during the 2002-2003 season. Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec are the lone holdovers from Julien’s previous stint with the organization.