The Montreal Canadiens have made the first coaching change of the season, firing veteran bench boss Claude Julien and replacing him, at least for now, with Dominique Ducharme. Julien was hired by the Canadiens in 2017 after being let go by the Boston Bruins, inking a new expensive five-year deal with Montreal. He didn’t make it through that full contract (it has a year left), but his tenure there wasn’t actually all that unsuccessful. Sure, the Canadiens didn’t make it very deep in the postseason, but they did get there in two of his four chances.
Overall, the Canadiens were 129-113-35 under Julien this time around, but back-to-back losses against the Ottawa Senators eventually sealed his fate. General manager Marc Bergevin told reporters including Arpon Basu of The Athletic today that when the Canadiens had last week off between games, he gave Julien and his staff the benefit of the doubt that he would turn things around. Three straight losses out of the break obviously showed things hadn’t changed, so he made the move to give the younger Ducharme a chance.
The former CHL Coach of the Year has obviously been groomed for this role and will be given the rest of the 2020-21 season to make his case to continue as head coach into the future. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that Bergevin won’t even be reaching out to other coaching candidates for the time being, giving Ducharme his chance instead. LeBrun also notes that Gerard Gallant, who has been thrown around as a potential replacement in Montreal, would not be willing to take an associate or assistant coach role–he’s waiting for a head coaching position.
Even though Julien’s recent history wasn’t great, it’s important to remember just how successful he’s been as a coach in the NHL. His overall record of 667-445-10-152 gives him a .587 points percentage, meaning his teams average over 96 points a season. He sits 13th on the all-time wins list and lifted the Stanley Cup as head coach of the Bruins in 2011.
Was it the right move for Montreal? Will this be able to turn their season around, given how readily available a playoff spot seems in the North Division? Is Ducharme the right coach to lead them moving forward? Vote on the poll below and make sure you leave your thoughts in the comment section.
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