Today, it was announced that Claude Julien is the first Pandemic firing in coaching ranks in the NHL.
#Habs have fired coach Claude Julien. Dominique Ducharme takes over on interim basis.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) February 24, 2021
The Canadiens have appointed Dominique Ducharme interim head coach and have added Alex Burrows to the coaching staff. Claude Julien and Kirk Muller have been relieved of their coaching duties. https://t.co/rhkfrD9m8f— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) February 24, 2021
Julien, who missed the playoffs after a cardiac event last summer, has done what he always does this season: created a mega-Corsi success which sacrifices shot quality for overall domination of shot share.
After a very hot start that anyone who has seen hockey before would have called too hot not to cool down, the Canadiens have cooled all the way to fourth in the North Division by points percentage. Before we all chortle too much, that percentage is .611, which is not exactly bad. But with a lot of media gushing this season over the moves GM Marc Bergevin made in the offseason, and then that hot start, the winds of change were bound to blow someone out the door when the team started losing to Ottawa, like they did last night.
And NHL hockey being what it is, that someone wasn’t going to be the guy who signed Carey Price to that hilarious contract. Montreal has a positive goal differential on 18 games played, the lowest in the North, of +9. That’s also not bad while not being very good either. They have the second lowest goals against, three ahead of Winnipeg, who’ve also played 18 games, and have a genuinely star-quality goalie. The Canadiens are managing that with the heavily defensively focused game Julien is known for. He was fired by the Bruins when their offence dried up too.
The sad truth is the Canadiens look like a team that has two obvious problems: Price isn’t very good, nor is he so terrible he’ll sink them, and they don’t have quality shooters. Given that set of circumstances, Julien’s recipe made a lot of sense. This is sad because Dominique Ducharme knows all this, and is also a coach with a very good history at the junior level. And of course, he has that single biggest, most important quality in that he’s French. This is sad because, the Canadiens might actually benefit from his regime even if Julien’s ideas weren’t merit-less.
Their secondary problem is a power play that’s so easy to defend, Ottawa can do it. This change might see that change too with the removal of Kirk Muller.
A great deal of what drove that exciting opening for the Canadiens was Jake Allen’s excellent play, which has now stretched to seven games as a goalie performing a touch better than Connor Hellebuck (in 14 more meaningful starts). The other thing was a faster, rush offence, that carries bigger risks, and well, maybe no one understands better than us what happens when a big Corsi, rush-based team stops rushing. Sometimes when all they do is cycle they look bad, but sometimes they end up with the best offence in their division. We don’t want that for Montreal!
What this means for the Leafs is that the ride to the top of the North for the rest of the season just got more difficult to call, but the chances Montreal will get better are, unfortunately, pretty good. Maybe they’ll listen to Alex Burrows too much and everything will be fine.
Go Habs Go! Keep on falling in the standings!