Hiring Julien was Bergevin’s biggest move ahead of trade deadline

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin explains his decision to fire Michel Therrien and replace him with Claude Julien, who he’s convinced is one of the best coaches in the planet.

• Bergevin likely won’t make bigger move than Julien hire
• Trade deadline activity will depend on cost
• Julien believes Canadiens can win now

Once you cobble all the pieces together of Marc Bergevin’s 40 minute dissection of the decision he made 24 hours ago, you can firmly conclude that the move he made to fire Michel Therrien and hire Claude Julien is the biggest one the Montreal Canadiens GM will make between now and the NHL’s trade deadline on March 1.

"In my opinion, with his track record, he’s a superstar," said Bergevin of his new coach.

As for obtaining another one on the trade market, that’s going to depend entirely on what it will cost the Canadiens.

"The idea of giving a young player like [2016 first-round pick Mikhail] Sergachev for a fix won’t happen," Bergevin asserted in French. "I’ll always look to make the team better but if the price is a young guy who can have an impact for 10-15 years, I won’t do it. Don’t expect a big trade like that. It’s not going to happen. But if the price drops and something is reasonable for the organization in the short and long term, I’ll try. If the price doesn’t drop, nothing like that will happen."

It’s a comment that shifts the attention away from Colorado’s Matt Duchene but also one that suggests Bergevin will be a player in the rental market between now and March 1.

He may have given a full endorsement to his leadership group and the pieces he currently has in place, but when asked towards the end of his press conference where he feels the team needs to improve most, he said, "everywhere."

Rentals like Dallas Stars forward Patrick Sharp and defenceman Johnny Oduya, who were part of the Blackhawks over some of the time Bergevin spent as an executive in Chicago, won’t cost the Canadiens Sergachev or any of the other top prospects they intend on keeping. Neither will Arizona’s Martin Hanzal or Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle.

The market for such players in the salary cap era has typically been a first- or second-round pick.

Bergevin also didn’t discount the possibility of trading off his roster to obtain a player who can help the Canadiens now and in the future.

"It depends on what player and it depends on what term," he said in French. "Depending on who they want from us and who we can get from them, I’m open. I’ll never ignore the possibility."

Nor should he.

Considering all the moves Bergevin has made up until this point—bringing Shea Weber in a trade for P.K. Subban, trading for and signing Andrew Shaw, signing Alexander Radulov and, most recently, hiring Julien—he’s made it clear he’ll do anything he can to help his team win now.

But his latest move will have the biggest impact on how far the Canadiens go from this point forward.

Firing Therrien to make it was anything but easy for him.

"At the end of the day we’re all human. It’s tough. It was tough yesterday," Bergevin said as tears welled up in his eyes. "You don’t go to war; you don’t sit in the trenches with a guy for five years and just turn the page, walk away and then never talk to him again. That’s just not the way it works, not in our business."

But as Bergevin also said, you move on and "do it for the team."

"There was something with the team not working properly," he added.

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As the Canadiens struggled to dictate pace in games leading up to Therrien’s firing, as the offence sputtered and put more pressure on a struggling goaltender in Carey Price, it became abundantly clear a big change was on its way.

Now, with a fully healthy and rested roster—thanks to the bye week—the Canadiens must go about the business of reversing the tide over the next 24 games.

Julien, who held a conference call on Wednesday, didn’t hint at making swooping changes to the tactics Therrien employed to accomplish that task.

"There will be adjustments," he said. "Little ones can make a huge difference."

"We want them to take pride in all aspects of the game," Julien repeated in English and in French. "I want puck possession. If you watched the Bruins, the puck was often in the opposing end. But we also want a good puck-pressure system with a good forecheck. The defensive game is key for recuperating the puck quickly, too. We’re going to touch all aspects of the game."

Julien admitted in French that he likes this team and believes it is capable of winning soon. He made no outlandish proclamation that it would but also made it clear that its current standing as leader of the Atlantic Division was a factor in his decision to return to the bench just one week after being fired by Boston.

"For me, to return quickly it had to be an ideal situation," he added in French. "This was ideal for me. I like the challenge in a hockey market. It might have been tougher for me to be in a market where there’s less pressure. There were other opportunities for me to coach elsewhere, too."

But Bergevin pounced quickly, and he locked up Julien for the five years that follow this season.

"There’s highs and lows," said Julien. "We’re going to get back to the highs."

Bergevin has a chance to continue to help that process over the next 13 days, but it’s hard to imagine him topping the move he made to bring a Stanley Cup-winning, Olympic gold medal-wearing coach into the fold.

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