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Slumping Canadiens fire coaches Claude Julien, Kirk Muller

Bob McKenzie breaks down Montreal's decision to move on from Claude Julien and explains why the job is interim HC Dominique Ducharme's to lose, while also looking at free agent coaches to watch in the offseason.

The Montreal Canadiens announced stunning news on Wednesday morning: the Habs fired head coach Claude Julien, and also fired associate coach Kirk Muller. Dominique Ducharme has been named interim head coach, while Alex Burrows was added to the coaching staff.

What a difference a few weeks -- and some losses, particularly to the lowly Senators -- can make. The Canadiens stormed out of the gate, looking like they found another gear after an offseason of changes by GM Marc Bergevin. Things screeched to a halt, and Julien lost his job.

[MORE: What Canadiens must improve after Julien firing]

Canadiens fire Julien; Ducharme named interim head coach

The Canadiens have lost three in a row, however, and now boast a middling 9-5-4 record.

“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,” Bergevin said in a statement. “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.”

Los Angeles Kings v Montreal Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 11: Dominique Ducharme, assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens prior to the game against the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 11, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Here’s a little information about Ducharme, via the Canadiens:

Ducharme, 47, is being promoted to the interim head coaching position after two seasons as an assistant coach with the Club. A native of Joliette, Ducharme joined the Canadiens coaching staff in April 2018 after 10 seasons in the QMJHL. He hoisted the Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2012-13. That same year, Ducharme earned the CHL’s Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award, while also being recognized in the QMJHL with the Ron Lapointe Trophy as the top coach in the league. Ducharme served as head coach for Canada during the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2017 (silver medal) and 2018 (gold medal).

The Canadiens’ struggles extended beyond a three-game losing streak. After beginning the season red-hot at 7-1-2, the Habs lost six of their last eight games. That slump included three losses to the Senators, although Montreal did squeeze two “charity points” from those defeats.

Julien represented the second coach Bergevin hired during his tenure as Canadiens GM, with Michel Therrien being the first. This was Julien’s second tenure as Canadiens head coach, as he also guided the Habs from 2002-03 to 2005-06.

Stay tuned for more on why the Montreal Canadiens fired Claude Julien.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.