Meet the new boss…

Canadiens fire head coach Ther­rien, Julien brought back as re­place­ment

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY BILL BEA­CON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Mon­treal Canadiens fired head coach Michel Ther­rien on Tues­day and brought back for­mer Bos­ton Bru­ins bench boss Claude Julien to help put life back into their slump­ing team.

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-yearold 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.

The move was made with the Canadiens on a five-day break. Bergevin is sched­uled to hold a news con­fer­ence this morn­ing at the Bell Sports Com­plex in Brossard, Que., while Julien will speak with re­porters via con­fer­ence call in the early af­ter­noon.

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.

“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,” Bergevin said in a re­lease. “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.”

The Canadiens are com­ing off a pair of losses to teams that have gone on win­ning runs since chang­ing coaches: St. Louis and Bos­ton.

“As a player, es­pe­cially as the cap­tain, you feel guilty,” Canadiens for­ward Max Pa­cioretty told Sport­snet. “Ul­ti­mately if we had per­formed bet­ter, es­pe­cially as of late, then you don’t force man­age­ment 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.”

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.

His first tasks will be get­ting Price out of his own slump and find­ing a bal­ance on the for­ward lines, par­tic­u­larly get­ting young tal­ents Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gal­lagher on track.

AP PHOTO

Then-Bos­ton Bru­ins head coach Claude Julien speaks at a news con­fer­ence in this April 2016 file photo.

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