Julien fired as coach of Canadiens

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Claude Julien was fired as coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and replaced by Dominique Ducharme, who was named coach through the end of the season.

Ducharme was a Canadiens assistant for two seasons under Julien. 

Montreal also fired associate coach Kirk Muller.

Alexandre Burrows was added to the staff as an assistant, and assistant Luke Richardson and goaltending coach Stephane Waite were retained.

“I had talks with Claude in the last little while and I know the message he was telling the players and what was happening was not the same,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said. “It happens in all sports. Claude is a very good coach, it’s just at some point, the player needs a new voice. That’s what I saw happening with our club in recent weeks.”

The Canadiens started the season 8-2-2 after adding forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, goalie Jake Allen, and defensemen Joel Edmundson and Alexander Romanov during the offseason. They are 1-3-2 in their past six games, including a 5-4 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

At 9-5-4, Montreal is fourth in the Scotia North Division, three points ahead of the Calgary Flames. The top four teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“The hard thing to watch is the swing from being a really good hockey team that was playing with pace, was engaged, playing to our identity, which is speed, and then going to the other side where our team was looking for anything,” Bergevin said. “The expression is, we’re chasing our tail. We were chasing the puck. We were not in sync. That was frustrating for me. Sometimes you can blame injuries, but we had none. Zero. If the message is the same and they’re acting differently, the change needs to be made.”

Julien has one year remaining on a five-year contract he signed with the Canadiens on Feb. 14, 2017, eight days after he was fired by the Boston Bruins.

The 60-year-old is 13th in NHL history in wins (667) and 17th in games coached (1,274; 667-445-152 with 10 ties).

“To a man, [everyone] needs to be better, needs to raise his game,” Bergevin said. “Every single guy. That was my message, and it’s my message to you guys (media), for our fans. That’s what needs to be done.”

Ducharme coached Canada to first place at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship after a second-place finish the year before. The 47-year-old coached seven seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Halifax (2011-16) and Drummondville (2016-18), winning the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2013.

“It was a long road for me,” Ducharme said. “I didn’t take the highway, I went on the side roads, but I’m proud of that and I think it made me grow as a coach and today I feel ready for it.”

Ducharme’s first game as coach will be Thursday when the Canadiens visit the Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV).

“I feel prepared,” Ducharme said. “When you’re prepared, you sit down at school, you get your exam, you don’t know what the questions are going to be but you’re ready to answer them. You’re pretty nervous when you didn’t study. Yeah, I’m confident. I’m confident in the group. I’m confident in the guys I’m working with. I’m ready to go.”

Bergevin called Ducharme a “new model of coach” who is a good communicator, which he thinks will help with Canadiens players.

“It doesn’t mean Claude doesn’t have a good message; sometimes the message needs to come from a different voice,” Bergevin said.

Burrows will run the power play, which is 20th in the NHL at 18.2 percent and 1-for-21 (4.8 percent) in nine games since Feb. 2. He was an assistant with Laval of the American Hockey League for three seasons following a 13-season NHL career from 2005-18.

“It’s losing momentum,” Bergevin said. “When we’re at our best it doesn’t mean we score on every power play but we’re creating, we’re gaining momentum.”

Ducharme said Richardson will continue to run the penalty kill, which ranks 22nd (76.4 percent).

“If you prepare for the game and you think tonight we’re going to win, maybe you forget something, how we’re going to win,” Ducharme said. “Focus on the process. I think we need to go back to those little things and make sure we’re doing them right. For sure there are going to be some little adjustments, but we’ll focus on our plan and I’m confident that we have a good team here and we’ll have success.”

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