Here’s an absolute stunner coming from the NHL – the Montreal Canadiens have fired Michel Therrien and hired recently-fired ex-Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien in his place.
Claude Julien appointed head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) February 14, 2017
So, the Canadiens hired a coach, who used to coach them, recently fired by their divisional rival, to replace the coach they hired (and fired) before. Make sense?
Julien is, and was, at the time of his firing in Boston, one of the league’s best coaches. A Stanley Cup Champion in 2010-11, Julien led the Bruins to 10 consecutive winning seasons before getting axed in 2016-17. The 56-year-old often brings out the best in his players, as his teams routinely play efficient and generate a plethora of shots. Julien coached the Habs for two-and-half seasons from 2002-2005.
Sitting in first place in the Atlantic Division might not seem like the ideal time to fire your coach, but since re-upping Therrien, the Canadiens have played above their means. They’ve constantly been outshot, outplayed, and haven’t put together the expected results. Despite 31 wins this season, the Canadiens have played as bad as first place team could. Therrien was easy to cut loose considering Montreal’s struggles for the last two seasons.
But man, who could have guessed Julien would be the man to replace him? He was just fired, and by a division rival no less. It will be fascinating to see how Julien uses a fairly gifted roster, which includes Vezina-winner Carey Price, Shea Weber, Alex Galchenyuk, and Max Pacioretty. It’s not a bad situation for him to land either.
If the Canadiens coast to .500 for the rest of the season, they’re still a playoff team. It’s surprisingly the right move in every regard from general manager Marc Bergevin. The timing is odd, but Julien wouldn’t have remained a free agent long. Kudos to Bergevin for striking while the iron was hot and not letting his man get away.
The biggest loser in the move, aside from Therrien once against being flushed down the toilet in Montreal, is Boston. Bruins fans know what kind of coach Julien was and didn’t want him to be fired. But a string of bad luck cost him his job and as soon as Saturday, they’ll watch Julien coach the team in front of them in the standings. That’s got to hurt. But hey, at least they’ve got Bruce Cassidy!
The move takes the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup chances off of life support. Julien is an incredible coach who shouldn’t have been available to begin with. Landing him now, in the midst of a playoff hunt, should do wonders for the franchise, even if there’s a small adjustment period. The Canadiens replaced a subpar coach with one of the league’s best. Fans in Montreal should be taking the streets to cheer for both Therrien’s departure and Julien’s takeover.
The arrangement isn’t ordinary. The fact Julien would come back to so soon Montreal is a bit of a surprise. However, it sure adds some intrigue as we approach the final stretch of the NHL season. Bergevin and the Canadiens organization are swinging for the fences with the move, but unlike the Therrien hire in 2012, there’s an actual reason to believe they’ve hit a home run.