The Montreal Canadiens relieved Michel Therrien of his head coaching duties and replaced him with former Boston Bruins bench boss Claude Julien on Tuesday. This marks the second time in franchise history the Habs have removed Therrien and brought in Julien.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) February 14, 2017
The move comes just one week after the Bruins fired Julien, who was in his 10th season with the organization and was removed amidst concerns the team could miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
Therrien, 53, previously served as the Habs head coach from 2000-01 to just past the midpoint of the 2002-03 season when Julien was hired. Julien held the position with the Canadiens until the 2005-06 season when he was fired. Julien went on to lead the New Jersey Devils during the 2006-07 season before he landed with the Bruins where he’d been ever since and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup in 2011 — the team’s first in 39 years .
In 159 games as head coach with the Habs during his first stint, Julien posted a 72-62-10-15 record (53.1 percent). Julien, 56, has been heralded throughout the NHL for his work with the Bruins, where he went 419-246-94 (61.4 percent) and helped them to seven-straight playoff berths from 2007-08 t0 2013-14, including a 53-win season in 2008-09 that helped to earn him the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s best coach.
The Bruins also earned a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
While the Bruins have had much success under Julien, they posted a combined 83 wins over the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years, and were just 26-23-6 through 55 games at the time he was replaced and teetering on the border of being a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
Therrien and Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin have come under fire of late, as the team has posted just one win in seven games in the month of February and seen their commanding position as first place in the Atlantic Division begin to wither away. The Canadiens (31-19-8, 70 points) now lead the Ottawa Senators by just six points after holding a commanding lead through much of the early part of the season, thanks to winning 13 of their first 15 contests to open 2016-17.
With the Canadiens primed for what could be a deep playoff run, many are wondering what moves Bergevin will make to help push them over the hump as the NHL approaches the March 1 trade deadline and closes out the latter part of the regular season. Bergevin’s only major roster move so far was on Jan. 26 when he traded for defenseman Nikita Nesterov from the Tampa Bay Lightning, but many expect that to be just a start.
Therrien’s last game as head coach of the Canadiens came, ironically, against the Bruins in a 4-0 loss on Feb. 12. He was in his fifth season with the Habs in his second go-around with the franchise, and lead them to a 194-121-37 record, including Atlantic Division titles in 2013 and 2015 and a trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014.
His combined 271 wins during nearly eight seasons overall with the Canadiens are fourth all-time in team history behind only Toe Blake, Dick Irvin and Scotty Bowman.
“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. 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 press release from the Canadiens on Tuesday.
“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 on their bye week and return to action again when they host the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 18.
Steven is a lawyer and writer with a passion for the game of hockey. He’s the Lead Writer covering the Tampa Bay Lightning with THW. He’s also been press credentialed through the Lightning since 2016. His work has been published at The Fourth Period, LightningInsider.com, Bolt Prospects, The Sports Daily Network, U.S. College Hockey Online and College Hockey News. He’s had radio appearances on TSN 690 in Montreal, Lightning Power Play Live and multiple podcasts to give insight and analysis on the team. He can be reached on Twitter @StevenDiOssi and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.