The Montreal Canadiens have parted ways with head coach Claude Julien, the team announced Wednesday. In addition to Julien being fired from his role, the team would also relieve associate coach Kirk Muller of his duties. In corresponding moves, the Canadiens would appoint Dominique Ducharme as interim head coach and adding Alex Burrows to the coaching staff as well.
This move would come less than 24 hours after the Canadiens lost their second-consecutive game to the Ottawa Senators, losing six of their last eight games after an excellent 7-1-2 star to the season.
“I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we worked together. I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard,” said general manager Marc Bergevin. “In Dominique Ducharme, we see a very promising coach who will bring new life and new energy to our group. We feel that our team can achieve high standards and the time had come for a change.”
Ducharme has been an assistant coach with the Canadiens for two seasons after joining the team in April 2018. Prior to that, he would spend 10 seasons in the QMJHL and has a history of success outside of the NHL, including a Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2012-13, a silver medal in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships and a gold medal in the 2018 tournament. He’d also earn himself recognition as the QMJHL and CHL coach of the year for the 2012-13 season.
High Expectations for the Canadiens
This is an interesting turn of events for the Canadiens after they started the 2020-21 season on such a tear.
With the Canadiens making the best of a playoff opportunity last year that wouldn’t have been a possibility without the expanded postseason, the team seemed primed to make a jump this season. In anticipation of this jump, the Canadiens would make a plethora of offseason moves that seemed to improve their roster on offense, defense and in net.
From Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli to Joel Edmundson, Alexander Romanov and Jake Allen, the Canadiens would put together an improved roster from just one season ago, and that seemed to pay dividends early on in the year. Unfortunately, the team seemed to regress as of late and despite having 22 points on the season, things looked to be getting worse than better.
Was there time for Julien to turn the ship around? Absolutely. It would be foolish to think otherwise, especially when considering the fact that Julien has proven to be capable of righting a ship in the past. Still, expectations were high this season as Pierre LeBrun would mention, and this move seemed to come now to avoid any further downward spiral for this team.
It’s possible that this move will work out for the Canadiens and the team will flourish with a new voice in charge. From personnel decisions to players buying into what the coaching staff is selling, a new voice could be just what the Canadiens need. At the same time, the grass isn’t always brighter and Julien could prove to not be the problem when all is said and done. Either way, the team is moving forward in a different direction and they’ll test the waters with Ducharme and see where it takes them.
The Canadiens will take on the Winnipeg Jets in back-to-back contests on Thursday and Saturday. They’ll look to right the ship in those games.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.