Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien gives instructions during practice in Brossard, Que., on July 14, 2020.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Marc Bergevin is hoping a new bench boss can get through to the slumping Montreal Canadiens.

The general manager fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller early on Wednesday, and promoted assistant coach Dominique Ducharme to interim head coach.

“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.

Story continues below advertisement

The move followed the Habs’ 5-4 shootout loss to the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday – Montreal’s third loss in a row.

After the game, Julien said his team needed to play with more confidence.

“That’s what we’re struggling with right now and it’s showing in all parts of our game,” he said.

The Canadiens (9-5-4) got off to a hot start this year, posting a 5-1-2 record in January and giving the Toronto Maple Leafs a run for top spot in the North Division.

The team has faltered recently, however, falling to fourth. 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 Wednesday.

“We’re chasing our tail, we’re chasing the puck, we’re not in sync. And that was frustrating for me.

Story continues below advertisement

“If the message is the same and they’re acting differently, then change needs to be made.”

Bergevin said 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 charge gives the players a “different voice,” Bergevin said.

Ducharme joined the Canadiens coaching staff in April, 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He won 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.

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.

Story continues below advertisement

Ducharme will “100 per cent” remain at the helm for the rest of the season, Bergevin said.

“Quarantine or no quarantine, [Ducharme] was my guy from the time I made my decision,” the GM said. “The reason why, he’s a new model of coach, a young coach that came a long way, had success at the junior level, had success at the world junior level. I feel that a new voice is what the team needs.”

Ducharme, who will make his debut when Montreal plays Thursday in Winnipeg, said he wants the Canadiens to spend less time in their zone, create more turnovers and give more support to the player who has the puck.

Taking on the role of head coach is much like sitting down to take an exam when you know you’ve studied hard, he said.

“I feel comfortable, I feel ready. I’m confident in the group, I’m confident in the guys I’m working with. And I’m ready to go,” said the 47-year-old native of Joliette, Que.

Still, being appointed to the position came with a range of emotions.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m losing two colleagues and two great people. To see them leave, obviously, it’s a mixed feelings,” Ducharme said. “But I’m proud to be here. It’s been a long road for me. I didn’t take the highway, I went the side road, but I’m proud of that. And I think it made me grow as a coach. And today I’m ready for it.”

Julien returned to the Habs for his second go-round as head coach midway through the 2016-17 season.

He previously lead the team from January, 2003 through January, 2006. After being dismissed by Montreal in 2006, he joined the New Jersey Devils for a brief stint, then went on to coach the Bruins from 2007 until 2017, winning a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.

Julien, 60, had to leave the team during the first round of the playoffs last year in Toronto when he had a stent installed in a coronary artery. Muller took over the head coaching duties and the Habs extended the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to six games before bowing out.

The Habs were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team postseason last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.

This season, a tightly contested all-Canadian North Division has heightened the stakes for the seven teams north of the border, Calgary Flames coach Geoff Ward said.

Story continues below advertisement

“I think really what we’re starting to see if that the emotion of the Canadian division is starting to come to the front,” he said. “And because of that, the rivalries are ramping up a bit and with the division being so tight, it can sway perspective very easily one way or the other.”

Ward said he owes Julien “a lot” and sent him a text Wednesday morning when he heard the news.

“He’ll bounce back, if he wants to and when he wants to. He’s a great coach. And somebody else now will benefit from what happened today,” he said.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies