The Montreal Canadiens announced Wednesday that head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller have been relieved of their duties.
Dominique Ducharme has been appointed interim head coach and Alex Burrows joins the coaching staff.
“I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we worked together. I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard,” said general manager Marc Bergevin in a press release.
“In Dominique Ducharme, we see a very promising coach who will bring new life and new energy to our group. We feel that our team can achieve high standards and the time had come for a change.”
Bergevin and Ducharme are slated to address the media this afternoon.
The news comes after the Canadiens lost their second straight game to the lowly Ottawa Senators, 5-4 in the shootout Tuesday, and picked up their sixth defeat in the last eight games.
The Canadiens have been in free-fall after an inspiring 7-1-2 start and an off-season where Bergevin dolled out $69.5 million to free agents Joel Edmundson, Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli. The Canadiens have a 9-5-4 record on the season.
Expectations were high in Montreal after the Canadiens made a surprising run to the NHL’s bubble playoffs last season and the off-season spending spree. The Habs were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team post-season and upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.
Julien had to leave the team during the first round when he had a stent installed in a coronary artery. Muller took over the head coaching duties and the Canadiens held on vs. Philadelphia Flyers for six games before bowing out.
Since taking over from Michel Therrien in February 2017, for his second stint as head coach of the Canadiens, Julien made the playoffs twice, losing in the first round on both occasions.
Over the course of nearly two decades of coaching in the NHL, Julien has compiled a 667-445-10 record, winning the Jack Adams Award (2008-09) and Stanley Cup (2010-11) with the Boston Bruins.
– With files from The Canadian Press