The winds of change are swirling for the Montreal Canadiens and certainly came through on Tuesday when the Habs fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Julien who was fired by the Boston Bruins on February 7th but had previously coached the Canadiens from 2003-06 and also replaced Therrien to begin his previous stint as the team’s coach.
The Canadiens (31-19-8), who lead the Atlantic Division with 70 points but are 1-5-1 in their past seven games, have struggled since starting the season 13-1-1. Since that hot start they have posted a 18-18-7 and the coaching change comes as the team is enjoying a 5-day break. It also marks the second consecutive season that the team has posted a hot start only to cool off significantly at some point.
Montreal can also point to some crushing injuries as to why they have faltered of late. They have had to play without center Alex Galchenyuk, right wing Brendan Gallagher and defenseman Andrei Markov. When the players returned to the ice, the team’s play did not improve.
Montreal lost back-to-back games over the weekend and their loss on Sunday to the Boston Bruins was the 3rd time they were shutout in 5 games.
“As a player, especially as the captain, you feel guilty,” Montreal’s 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.”
“It’s just one of those things where we had gotten away from our identity as a team,” Brendan 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.”
“I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice, a new direction,” Canadiens general manager Marc 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.”