MONTREAL — Firing Michel Therrien as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens was necessary because there was "something missing" in the team’s recent performances, general manager Marc Bergevin said Wednesday.
"We were just not playing our game, we were not the same team as we were earlier on," Bergevin told a news conference a day after dismissing Therrien and replacing him with Claude Julien. "There was something missing. The team performance showed there was something not right and the change had to be made."
The Canadiens opened the season with a 13-1-1 mark but have been listless over the last two months and have a 2-6-1 record in their last nine games.
There was fear of another collapse like last season, when the club was in first place but went on to miss the playoffs after star goalie Carey Price was injured.
In a conference call with reporters later on Wednesday, Julien said his contract is for five years after the end of this season.
He said his original plan after being fired by the Boston Bruins last week was to wait until the spring before thinking of his future.
That all changed with Bergevin’s call.
"We hit it off when we worked together at the world championships," said Julien, who coached the Canadiens between 2003 and 2006.
"He’s a good manager, a good man and it’s important for me to work for good people. I also spoke to Mr. (Canadiens owner Geoff) Molson and I realize I’m going to a good organization.
"And I like the direction the team is going in and the potential it has."
Julien confirmed he is going to keep Therrien’s assistant coaches, at least until the end of the season.
"You can’t come in in the middle of the season and change everything," he said.
Bergevin praised Therrien as a battler who gave his all to the Canadiens in his second stint as coach of the team.
"Michel and I worked very closely together over the past five years," he said. "We fought some big battles and experienced strong emotions together … our working relationship has always been marked by intensity, sincerity and emotion and our meeting yesterday was no different.
"That being said, I’ve reached the conclusion we were at a turning point and that is why I decided to make this change in the club’s best interests."
Bergevin called Julien one of the best coaches in the NHL and the ideal man to turn around the slumping franchise.
Julien became available when he was fired in his 10th season with the Bruins.
This is the second time Julien has replaced Therrien as coach in Montreal. Therrien’s first stint with Montreal from 2000-03 ended when Julien stepped in.
Julien is to run his first practice Friday afternoon and coach the next day in a matinee against the visiting Winnipeg Jets. The native of Orleans, Ont., is to work his 1,000th NHL game Feb. 23 against the New York Islanders.