Claude Julien was out of work for all of six days after being fired by the Boston Bruins. Now he’s back in the Atlantic Division, and he’s moved up a couple places in the standings in the process.
With the Montreal Canadiens seeing their lead in the Atlantic Division slipping away, Les Habitantes made a major move on Tuesday, firing coach Michel Therrien and naming Julien as his replacement with 24 games left in the Canadiens’ season.
Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said that it was difficult to remove Michel as the coach. Bergevin said he respected the coach, which made it hard to do, according to ESPN. He continued to say that he came to the conclusion that the team needed to find new energy, and a new direction. Claude Julien is well-respected and experienced. He knows the market in Montreal. As an NHL coach, he has seen success and won the Stanley Cup. He is convinced that they have hired the best available coach, and one of the leagues best, who can return the team to the winning track.
It’s the second time Montreal has made this exact move, having fired Therrien halfway through the 2002-03 season and replacing him with Claude Julien, who failed to get the Canadiens to the playoffs that season, but still stayed for three seasons before being fired during the 2006 season. He then coached New Jersey and Boston, winning a Stanley Cup in the latter city and lasting nearly 10 years with the Bruins before being fired on Feb. 8.
Therrien was in his fifth season in his second tour of duty with the Canadiens, having led Montreal to two division titles in his first three seasons with the club. But the Canadiens slipped to sixth last season and missed the playoffs, leaving Therrien firmly on the hot seat as the season started.
Montreal has occupied first place in the Atlantic Division for most of the year after a 13-1-1 start to the season, but the Canadiens have been simply dreadful in February. Montreal has lost six of its past seven since the calendar turned to February and has been shut out on three of those occasions. The Canadiens still held a six-point lead on the Ottawa Senators heading into Tuesday, but the Senators had played five fewer games than Montreal, leaving the Habs’ hold on the division as questionable at best.
Claude Julien now steps in to try to stem the tide, and he’ll have a few days to get to know his new team before the Canadiens take the ice. Montreal began a bye week on Monday after losing to Julien’s former team, the Bruins, and they don’t play until Saturday, when they’ll host the Winnipeg Jets.
Readers, will this move be the tonic Montreal needs to win its third division crown in five seasons? Is Julien the voice the Canadiens need? Or will history repeat itself and leave the Canadiens on the outside looking in? Sound off in the comments below.
By Dan Angell