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Julien became available when he was fired in his 10th season with the Bruins last week and Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was quick to snap him up. It is believed that a handful of other teams were also interested in the 56-year-old coach.
?The Canadiens opened the season with a 13-1-1 mark but have been listless over the last two months and have a 2-6-1 record in their last nine games. There was fear of another collapse like last season, when the club went from first place to out of the playoffs after star goalie Carey Price was injured.
Speculation had been building that Therrien would be let go. He ended up being replaced by Julien for the second time in his career. Therrien’s first stint with Montreal from 2000-03 ended when Julien took over from 2003-06.
Julien is to run his first practice Friday afternoon and coach the next day in a matinee against the visiting Winnipeg Jets. The Orleans, Ont. native is to work his 1,000th NHL game Feb. 23 against the New York Islanders.
“The decision to remove Michel from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have lots of respect for him” Bergevin said in a release. “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.”
The question is whether Montreal would have made a move if Julien had not become available. However, he fits the team’s needs in bringing experience, a history of playoff success and an ability to communicate with fans and media in French, which is all but compulsory for a Canadiens coach.
He inherits a team that considers itself ready for a Stanley Cup run now with Price in goal and with veteran Shea Weber, acquired in an off-season trade that sent P.K. Subban to Nashville, anchoring the defence.
This is the 2nd time Michel Therrien has been fired by the Canadiens and replaced by Claude Julien, which is amazing. Happened in 2003 too.
That Julien decided to return to the Canadiens was surprising to many hockey observers who felt he was unfairly fired his first time in Montreal — his first NHL coaching job — when he was replaced by former Canadiens GM Bob Gainey despite a 19-16-6 record at the time.
But after key personnel and management changes, the Bruins have not been the same team in recent years. They missed the playoffs the last two seasons and were in danger of making it three in a row when they axed Julien and promoted Bruce Cassidy to head coach.
Julien was the NHL’s longest-tenured coach at the time.
It is an older, more confident Julien who will guide the Canadiens this time around.
There is less certainty that Therrien will be picked up by another team even though the Canadiens are in first place in the Atlantic Division. He had a record of 271 wins, 198 losses, 23 ties and 50 overtime losses in 542 career regular-season games with the Canadiens and ranks fourth on the team’s all-time list for games and wins.
He led the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference final in 2014.
Therrien also guided the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup final in 2008, but was replaced by Dan Bylsma late the next season. He worked in television until the Canadiens gave him another chance in 2012.