NHL: Where the Montreal Canadiens Went Wrong Hiring Claude Julien


By: Jake Gutmann

Without a doubt, Michel Therrien was disliked by the Montreal Canadians fanbase. On February 5th, following a 1-0 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers, a friend of mine who is a die hard Habs fan said, “I would do anything to have Therrian fired.” Well Chase, you’ve gotten your wish….kind of.

On February 14th, the Montreal Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin announced the firing of head coach Michel Therrian and hiring of Claude Julien. Not a bad move considering Julien’s track record in the last ten years.

Since joining the Boston Bruins in the 2007-2008 NHL season, Julien’s coaching resume is phenomenal. During his ten-year stay in Boston, the Bruins made the playoffs seven times. In the 2008-2009 season Julien took home the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. The 2010-2011 season was also notable for Julien, as the Boston Bruins won hockey’s most prized possession, the Stanley Cup. Additionally, there are multiple personal coaching milestones that Julien achieved with the Bruins. It is needless to say that Julien’s ten years in Boston were a success, but will his second round of duty in Montreal be the same? Maybe there is a method to Bergevin’s madness. But in all likelihood, Claude Julien was hired because there was simply no better option for the Montreal Canadiens.

As most hockey fans know, the Montreal Canadiens head coach must be a francophone; that means French-speaking. The francophone rule is not a league mandate. But in Montreal hiring a non-franco is highly controversial. Necessary or not, Habs owner Geoff Molson is adamant on hiring a French-speaking coach. In turn Molson left Bergevin with only a few qualified professional coach options when the team was searching for a new head coach.

Hiring Claude Julien was a smart, but impulsive move by Marc Bergevin. The Canadiens were desperate to relieve Therrian but had limited options. With Claude Julien being relieved from his position in Boston, one of few French-speaking coaches of NHL caliber was made available. Francophone or not, Julien is one of the leagues elite coaches, making him appealing to any team. Fearful of losing his opportunity, Bergevin was quick to hire Julien only a week after his dismal from Boston.

Regardless of the seemingly irate reactions sparked by the shocking employment change in Montreal, the Canadiens fan base will have to accept Claude Julien as head coach, for now. If I was Marc Bergevin I would start planning for the future so that the Canadiens are not forced to recycle another Francophone coach.

The Canadiens first priority should be finding a French-speaking head coach who is qualified to take over the team’s minor league affiliate, the St John’s Icecaps. Coaching in the AHL for multiple seasons, would give the coach necessary professional experience. If the coach were successful with the Icecaps, then Bergevin would have a legitimate head coach candidate for the Canadiens on his hands.

When looking for a Francophone head coach, one may think to scout in the QMJHL.  Many professional coaches have begun their careers there. This season alone the NHL has three prominent French-speaking coaches who were head coaches in QMJHL before moving up the ranks: Alain Vigneault, Bob Hartley and Claude Julien.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League likely has several more qualified French-speaking coaches, who have not been recycled by the Canadiens organization. Both Julien and Therrian have each served twice as head coach for the Canadiens. Acquiring a coach from the QMJHL would give the Habs a refreshing coaching change. In doing this, the Canadiens would not be giving a job to a man that has been with the organization in past years. Conversely Montreal would bring someone in who has no previous professional affiliation with the club. Someone the fan base could not be quick to judge.

I am not saying that Claude Julien is a bad coach. Honestly I have the utmost respect for him. He has a proven track record with the Boston Bruins. Under Julien’s coaching, the Bruins were the ones who broke mine and the rest of Leafs Nation’s hearts during the 2013 playoffs. I truly believe that he is a qualified NHL coach.

That being said, Canadiens fans do not seem happy with Bergevin’s selection. It was only eleven years ago that Julien was fired from this same organization-and now he is back. I would be upset if the Leafs pulled a stunt like that too. But the Habs fans cannot reminisce on the past because, what is done is done. From here on forwards it would be beneficial for the Montreal Canadiens to scout potential coaching candidates from the QMJHL. Following this suggestion it is possible that the Canadiens will find a diamond in the ruff, as opposed to recycling coaches from the past.

Do you think this was the right move for the Habs? Comment below!

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