The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Claude Julien on Wednesday.
Dominique Ducharme was named interim coach, and the team added veteran NHL winger Alex Burrows to the coaching staff. The Canadiens also fired assistant coach Kirk Muller, who served as interim coach in the 2020 playoffs after Julien was hospitalized with chest pains and underwent a heart procedure.
The Canadiens were one of the NHL’s hottest teams to begin the season and appeared to be serious rivals for the North Division. However, the Habs have won just two of their last eight games and were demoralized by losing back-to-back games in shootout to the Ottawa Senators, who live in the background.
Montreal is 9-5-4; Although the Canadiens are eight points behind the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, they are still comfortably in fourth place, which would qualify for the playoffs.
Expectations rose this season after general manager Marc Bergevin was extremely active in the offseason. Bergevin rose at every position, bringing in veteran backup goalkeeper Jake Allen, trading defender Joel Edmundson and bringing in several new forwards, including Tyler Toffoli (team leader with 12 goals) and Josh Anderson (fourth on the team with 12 points).
Julien, 60, was one of the highest paid coaches in the NHL, making $ 5 million per season. His contract was extended until the 2021-22 season.
Julien led Boston to a Stanley Cup in 2011, and is ranked 13th in NHL history with 667 career wins.
“I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we have worked together,” Bergevin said in a statement. “I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard. At Dominique Ducharme, we see a very promising coach who will bring new life and new energy to our group. We believe that our team can achieve high standards and the time had come for to vary “.
Ducharme, 47, has been an assistant coach with Montreal for two seasons.