Claude Julien has been named head coach of Canada’s men’s hockey team for a pair of international tournaments next month.
And if the NHL pulls out of the 2022 Winter Olympics, he’ll also be behind the bench at the Beijing Games.
Barring another job opening up between now and then, of course.
Julien was tipped Friday to lead Canada’s entries at both the Channel One Cup in Russia and the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.
The 61-year-old will be joined by assistants Bruce Boudreau and Scott Walker, while Hockey Canada also announced Shane Doan as general manager. Blair Mackasey will serve as Doan’s assistant.
“Looking forward to the challenge, and also looking forward to having some success,” Julien said on a video-conference call with reporters. “Really happy that I was able to get an opportunity to be behind the bench with Team Canada again.
“And just being behind the bench and doing what I love doing the most.”
Julien owns a 667-445-162 coaching record in 1,274 regular-season NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.
The Ottawa native, who won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, was fired from his second stint with the Canadiens in February.
Julien has recently been linked to the Vancouver Canucks as a potential replacement for embattled head coach Travis Green.
“I’ve committed to Hockey Canada right now, and that’s what I’m looking forward to,” Julien said. “There’s a lot of speculation out there.
“But none of those, I guess, rumours are true so far.”
Asked if Boudreau, who has 13 seasons of NHL head coaching experience, was included by the national program as cover should its first choice move on, senior vice-president of hockey operations Scott Salmond joked Julien has “a 100-per-cent-locked-in contract.”
“We’d never stand in the way of Claude leaving if there was an opportunity,” Salmond continued. “We haven’t had those conversations, to be honest, with Bruce or anyone else. We’re just focused on the staff we have.
“And if things change, we’ll make the adjustment.”
Canada’s rosters for the December events are usually comprised of European-based professionals. The country’s entry for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang was selected from the Channel One Cup and Spengler Cup pool of players after the NHL declined to participate in South Korea.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are committed to going to China in 2022, but have until Jan. 10 to pull out over COVID-19 concerns without financial penalty.
“We don’t have any reason to believe that the National Hockey League will not participate in the Winter Olympic Games,” Salmond said. “[But] we want to be prepared in the event that something happens.
“We pride ourselves on being the most-prepared organization in team and international hockey.”
The winner of the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year in 2009 with the Bruins, Julien helped Canada win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey as an assistant, and was on the staff that secured gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.
He was also an assistant with the world junior program on two occasions, winning silver in 1999 and bronze in 2000.
Doan, who suited up against Julien’s teams during his 21 NHL seasons, said discipline coupled with a willingness to allow creativity to flourish stood out from afar.
“He trusted his players while they were inside their structure,” Doan said. “Every player wants that. You want that freedom.
“And yet at the same time, you want to know the parameters and what the expectations are.”
Boudreau, meanwhile, has never coached at the international level.
The 66-year-old from Toronto led the Washington Capitals (2007-11), Anaheim Ducks (2011-16) and Minnesota Wild (2016-20), claiming the Jack Adams Award in 2008.
Boudreau owns the second-best winning percentage (.576) in NHL history of any coach with at least 900 games behind the bench.
“He certainly brings a wealth of experience ... a tremendous desire and excitement to be part of Hockey Canada,” Salmond said. “A fresh perspective for us having not been involved in the past.”
Doan won gold with Canada at the 2021 world championships as assistant general manager.
The Arizona Coyotes’ hockey-development officer since January, the 45-year-old from Halkirk, Alta., played at six world championships — winning gold three times — and also competed at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and 2006 Olympics.
“You look around and you see how many amazing Canadians are playing in Europe and in the AHL and all different places,” he said of putting together a roster that could be thrust into the Olympic spotlight. “You understand the [potential] ramifications of what the next two tournaments are and what they lead to, but our goal is to win these next two tournaments.
“That’s our goal every single time you put the jersey on.”
Canada opens the Channel One Cup against hosts Russia on Dec. 15 in Moscow. The Spengler Cup gets going Dec. 26 in Davos, Switzerland, with the Canadians facing off against HC Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic’s top division.
Players will then head their separate ways knowing the Olympic deadline is just over the horizon.
“We want to try to prepare for any scenario,” Salmond said. “One of the scenarios in front of us is there is a potential for the NHL to not participate [in Beijing]. We feel confident with the staff we put in place, with the list of players that we have — no different than the experience we had in 2018 — that we can be competitive.
“I don’t think that we would be doing our job, and I think we would be doing a disservice, if we didn’t have an alternate plan.”