Dominique Ducharme was appointed the interim coach, and the group included longtime NHL winger Alex Burrows into the training team. The Canadiens also fired assistant coach Kirk Muller, who served as interim coach from the 2020 playoffs after Julien had been hospitalized with chest pains and underwent a heart procedure.
The Canadiens were among the most popular teams in the NHL to start the season and seemed to be serious challengers for the North Division. On the other hand, the Habs have won just two of the previous eight matches and have been demoralized by losing back-to-back matches from the shootout into the bottom-dwelling Ottawa Senators.
Montreal is 9-5-4; though the Canadiens are eight factors behind the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, they continue to be comfortably at the fourth place, which would be eligible for the playoffs.
Expectations have been heightened this year after general director Marc Bergevin was exceptionally active in the offseason. Bergevin updated at each place, earning veteran backup goalie Jake Allen, trading for defenseman Joel Edmundson and earning many new forward, such as Tyler Toffoli (team-leading 12 goals) and Josh Anderson (fourth on the team with 12 points).
Julien, 60, was among those highest-paid coaches in the NHL, making $5 million each season.
“I want to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk because of their contributions to our group over the previous five years through which we worked collectively,” Bergevin said in a statement. “I’ve got great respect for both of these guys whom I hold in high esteem. In Dominique Ducharmewe find an extremely promising mentor who will bring new life and new energy into our team. We believe our staff can attain high standards and the time had come for a change”
Ducharme, 47, has been an assistant coach with Montreal for 2 seasons.