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Julien may need time to turn Habs around





Only five coaches have steered their teams to two Stanley Cup finals in the past six seasons: Joel Quenneville (2013, 2014-15), Darryl Sutter (2011-12, 2013-14), Claude Julien (2010-11, 2013), Alain Vigneault (2010-11, 2013-14) and Peter DeBoer (2011-12, 2015-16).

So if you're a general manager and you have an all-world goalie like Carey Price, an aging roster by today's standards with seven 30-and-over players, and your club is struggling big time, why not snap up the first available coach from this select group?

That's what Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin did on Tuesday afternoon in firing Michel Therrien and replacing him with Julien, who was let go by the Boston Bruins a week ago.

Bergevin watched his Habs begin the season beautifully with a 13-1-1 run. But they squandered that start with a .500 record over the next three months and watched the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers soar past them in the Eastern Conference standings.

Montreal's play has been particularly alarming over the last seven games with only one win — a 5-4 overtime victory against the 29th-place Arizona Coyotes.

On Sunday, the Habs were listless in a 4-0 loss in Boston. It was the Canadiens' final outing before their mandated five-day break. Bergevin immediately took action in asking the Bruins for permission to chat with the 56-year-old Julien.

Julien then was swiftly hired to replace Therrien — the same scenario that played out in Montreal in January 2003 when Julien was summoned from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs to replace Therrien.

In his second go-around with the Canadiens, Julien will run his first practice on Friday before his first game at the Bell Centre on Saturday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets.

Be like Mike

In a perfect hockey world, Bergevin hopes that Julien can provide the sort of lift Mike Sullivan did when he replaced Mike Johnston last season and led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship.

Before Sullivan's turnaround, there was Sutter in 2011-12 with the Los Angeles Kings when he replaced Terry Murray. Before Sutter, there was Dan Bylsma, who successfully replaced Therrien in Pittsburgh in 2008-09 to also win a title.

If Bergevin needed more recent evidence, all he had to do was look at the effect fresh coaching faces have had on the New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Bruins.

The Islanders have gone 8-3-2 under Doug Weight, while Mike Yeo has a 5-1-0 record in St. Louis and Bruce Cassidy has gone 3-0-0 in replacing Julien in Boston.

Julien may not have the same immediate impact in Montreal. Sure, he's familiar with the Canadiens' personnel, having coached against them for the past 10 seasons with Boston.

But unlike Weight, Yeo and Cassidy — all assistant coaches who were promoted by their respective teams — Julien will need time to get an up-close-and-personal view on his new team.

Learning curve

The Islanders, Blues and Bruins are each different situations. But a common thread is there was continuity in that the head coach was replaced by one of the team's assistants.

As a result, Weight, Yeo and Cassidy didn't need much time to figure out their personnel. This reduced their learning curve and allowed them to focus on tweaks to their systems.

Players also talk to assistant coaches on a daily basis. Assistant coaches know the mood of the team, the temperature of the group. So Weight, Yeo and Cassidy had a sense of what the tone and delivery of their message needed to be in order to get the players to buy in and turn the corner.

How long this effect lasts in Brooklyn, St. Louis and Boston remains to be seen. In Montreal, Julien may need more time.

But he's a respected voice behind the bench. You can bet Price has called his Olympic teammate Patrice Bergeron for the 411 on Montreal's new coach. Ditto for United States teammates Max Pacioretty and David Backes.

In the end, this will be a good move for Montreal, especially come playoff time. The Canadiens have 24 regular-season games remaining. Sullivan was 4-6-2 in his first dozen games behind the Penguins bench before Pittsburgh got rolling.

Give Julien time and the Canadiens will be better off, too.


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