‘Fix and tweak’

Julien hopes to ‘cre­ate some pride’ in strug­gling Cana­di­ens

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY MOR­GAN LOWRIE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Claude Julien says his first goal as the new Mon­treal Cana­di­ens coach will be to “cre­ate some pride” in the slump­ing club as he re­turns be­hind the bench.

But Julien, who was hired Tues­day to re­place Michel Ther­rien, said he plans to “fix and tweak” the team’s play, rather than make dras­tic changes, to guide it back to win­ning ways.

“We’re go­ing to play as a team, we’re go­ing to play with some pace, we’re go­ing to cre­ate some pride in all as­pects of our game,” he told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call from Bos­ton. “All the other ad­just­ments sys­tem-wise, I’m go­ing make them, but you can’t come in the mid­dle of the sea­son and change ev­ery­thing.”

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 was in first place but went on to miss the play­offs af­ter star goalie Carey Price was in­jured.

Julien said his con­tract is for five years af­ter the end of this sea­son. It’s his sec­ond tour with the Cana­di­ens, the team he coached from 2003 to 2006.

He said his orig­i­nal plan af­ter be­ing fired by the Bos­ton Bru­ins last week in his 10th sea­son as the team’s coach was to wait un­til the spring be­fore think­ing of his fu­ture.

That all changed when he re­ceived a call from Cana­di­ens gen­eral man­ager Marc Bergevin, with whom he said he felt a “strong con­nec­tion.”

“He’s a good man­ager, a good man and it’s im­por­tant for me to work for good peo­ple,” he said. “I also spoke to Mr. (Cana­di­ens owner Ge­off) Mol­son and I re­al­ize I’m go­ing to a good or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Bergevin, who held a news con­fer­ence ear­lier in the day, was quick to praise his new hire as a “su­per­star.” Julien led the Bru­ins to a Stan­ley Cup ti­tle in 2011 and also reached the Cup fi­nal in 2013.

“He’s the right man for the sit­u­a­tion and for the long-term,” Bergevin said at the Cana­di­ens’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity in Mon­tre­alarea Brossard. “It’s a home run.”

And de­spite the speed with which the deal was reached, Bergevin said the de­ci­sion to fire Ther­rien was based on Mon­treal’s re­sults and not on Julien’s avail­abil­ity.

“There was some­thing miss­ing,” he said. “The team per­for­mance showed there was some­thing not right and the change had to be made.”

Bergevin said he doesn’t be­lieve the ru­mours that Ther­rien had lost the con­fi­dence of Price - spec­u­la­tion that be­gan Dec. 16 when the Cana­di­ens goal­tender ap­peared to stare down the bench at Ther­rien af­ter be­ing pulled dur­ing a 4-2 loss to San Jose.

“I don’t think so, that’s not what I be­lieve, but the only one who could an­swer that is Carey,” Bergevin said.

Julien praised his new team and es­pe­cially Price, who he called “the best goalie in the world.” He said the club is solid on the back end but needs help with scor­ing.

“There’s a lot of tal­ent up front and that tal­ent has been a bit dried up in terms of scor­ing and we need to fix that,” he said.

Julien and Bergevin both im­plied other ma­jor changes aren’t in the plans right now, with the in­com­ing coach say­ing he would keep the rest of the coach­ing staff in­tact for at least the rest of the sea­son.

For his part, Bergevin made it clear he wasn’t pre­pared to trade away top young prospects, such as Mikhail Ser­gachev, for a “quick fix” be­fore the March 1 trade dead­line.

Bergevin also praised out­go­ing Ther­rien as a bat­tler who gave his all to the Cana­di­ens in his sec­ond stint as coach of the team.

This is the sec­ond time Julien has re­placed Ther­rien as coach in Mon­treal. The lat­ter’s first stint with Mon­treal from 200003 ended when Julien stepped in.

Julien is to run his first prac­tice Fri­day af­ter­noon and coach the next day in a mati­nee against the vis­it­ing Win­nipeg Jets. The na­tive of Or­leans, Ont., is to work his 1,000th NHL game Feb. 23 against the New York Is­lan­ders.

CP PHOTO

Mon­treal Cana­di­ens gen­eral man­ager Marc Bergevin com­ments on the team’s coach­ing change dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Brossard, Que., on Wed­nes­day.

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