The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller.
The team revealed that Dominique Ducharme will serve as interim head coach and Alex Burrows has joined the coaching staff. Luke Richardson and Stéphane Waite keep their respective duties within the coaching group.
Julien ends his tenure with the Canadiens with a record of 129-123-35. In his four years with the team, Montreal missed the playoffs twice and lost in the first round the other two years. The Canadiens were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team post-season last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. They then lost in six matches to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.
“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,” general manager Marc Bergevin wrote in a press release.
“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 joined the Canadiens coaching staff in April 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He acquired the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2012-13 and has twice been Canada’s head coach at the world junior championship, winning silver in 2017 and gold in 2018.
Bergevin and Ducharme addressed the media Wednesday afternoon in Winnipeg.
“It’s not fun. It’s a tough part of my job. To walk into these two men’s room this morning, it was not easy,” Bergevin said.
In a pandemic-shortened 56-game season, Bergevin said he didn’t want to wait to make a change behind the bench.
“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, then going to the other side to a team that’s looking for anything,” he said.
“We’re chasing our tail, we’re chasing the puck, we’re not in sync. And that was frustrating for me.
“If the message is the same and they’re acting differently, then change needs to be made.”
Bergevin stated he wanted to give Julien and Muller an “honest try” to fix things over the squad’s recent six-day break.
“After that week off, I thought we would really come out flying, refocused, re-energized and back in sync. And I didn’t see that,” he said.
Putting Ducharme in control gives the players a “different voice,” Bergevin said. The Canadiens also promoted Alex Burrows to assistant coach. Burrows, formerly a winger for the Senators and Vancouver Canucks, has been a member of the coaching staff for the Habs’ AHL affiliate in Laval, Que., the past two seasons.