Many analysts believed that the Montreal Canadiens were going to make changes before the NHL trade deadline. Knowing the relationship head coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin had, it still came as a bit of a surprise that it was a coaching change that was the first move. The Canadiens had another hot start this season, going 13-1-1, but could not capitalise afterwards. Being in win now mode, the Habs were looking to continue that play, win the division and prepare for a long playoff run. With just one win in the team’s last seven games, that was in jeopardy, and so Bergevin pulled the trigger.
Montreal Canadiens Get Much Needed Coaching Upgrade in Claude Julien
Marc Bergevin improved his team was through this coaching change. Bringing in Claude Julien is a major shakeup that allows the team to re-focus. In his second stint with the team, Therrien was in his fifth season behind the Habs bench. The team had seemingly plateaued with him behind the bench. For the last couple of years the Habs jumped out to hot starts but struggled through the mid point of the season. Under Therrien, The Habs were a good team, but at this point in time, Montreal needed to be great in order to capitalize on the window of championship opportunity.
Coach Julien will help the Habs find an identity and maintain a focus . With a new coach every single Canadiens player will start from the same point to earn the coach’s trust. This coaching change will allow the Habs to play with a fire that they’ve lacked for some time now. To earn Julien’s trust, the Habs will need to play hard and adopt his philosophies to keep themselves in the lineup.
It should be stated that Julien and Therrien have some resemblences in coaching style. They both are defence oriented coaches where they focus on their goaltending and a strong defensive system. When he won the Stanley Cup with Boston, Julien had a defence corps that was big and hard to play against in their own end. If the opposition made it past the defence, Boston had Tim Thomas locking down the crease.
The main difference between the two is how they handle issues with players. Michel Therrien has been know to be controversial, especially dealing with star players. He is an old school disciplinarian. P.K. Subban was one player who had constant run-ins with Therrien before he was traded to the Nashville Predators. Before this season it was captain Max Pacioretty who found his way onto Therrien’s hit list. Therrien apparently called out Pacioretty by saying he was the worse captain in franchise history. Therrien often handled these situations in an unprofessional and inappropriate manner as the leader of a team. Julien on the other hand is much more professional. He still constantly challenges his players to play better, but never goes through the media or make cheap shots to his players. He is known as a players coach.
Putting the Pieces Together
With his new team, Julien has the right pieces to implement his game plan. If executed properly, coach Julien can install some life into this organization and provides a new voice to learn from. He also brings a unique voice to the Habs locker room that sets him apart from the rest. He has spent the past ten years in Boston, arguably the biggest rival for Montreal. Julien constantly game planned against the Habs, giving him an angle on this team that other coaches do not have.
So who will this move benefit the most?
Carey Price is at the top of this list. Lately he has been uncharacteristically bad, posting a sub .900 save percentage over the past two months, and allowing an average of around three goals a game. With Julien coming in he will want to get back to his dominant ways. A major concern has been the penalty kill. Price has been a .918 goalie at even strength since December 1st, but only .765 while killing penalties. Fixing a unit that is in the bottom five of the NHL will greatly help him. Structuring their game plan around Price is vital because talent wise he is the best player on the team.
Another player that this coaching change will likely benefit is Alex Galchenyuk. The 23-year-old came out of junior hockey as a centreman. When the Habs took Galchenyuk third overall in the 2012 draft, they thought they finally got that number one centre they’ve longed for. In Therrien’s system Galchenyuk never got a fair opportunity to solidify himself as a number one centre. Instead, he was often slotted on the wing where he would not have to carry any defensive liabilities. Even this year, while he’s been at centre, he hasn’t been given big minutes. One of Julien’s first moves was to put Galchenyuk back at centre of the team’s first line and identify the need to show him some confidence from the coaching staff.
Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov will also likely see their minutes increase. They are the Canadiens two best wingers and are vital to creating scoring chances and driving possession.
At the end of the day, this coaching change for the Habs will be positive. A team that is clearly in a win now mind set had to play like a team that can threaten to make a run. The Habs get a coach that has won the cup and has that type of credentials to his name will improve any team he takes over.
NEWARK, NJ – JANUARY 02: Head coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins gives instructions to Brandon Carlo #25 during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 2, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)