Feb. 24 (UPI) — The Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien amid the club’s current slump, the team announced Wednesday.
Dominique Ducharme was named the Habs’ interim head coach, and the club added longtime NHL forward Alex Burrows to the coaching staff.
The Canadiens also fired assistant coach Kirk Muller, who served as the team’s interim coach in the 2020 postseason when Julien was hospitalized with chest pains. Julien later underwent a heart procedure.
“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,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. “I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard.
“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.”
Montreal was one of the NHL’s hottest teams to start the season and appeared to be serious contenders in the North Division. The Canadiens, however, have won only two of their last eight games and recently suffered back-to-back losses to the struggling Ottawa Senators.
The Canadiens have a 9-5-4 record this season, although the team sits eight points behind the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs.
Julien, 60, was one of the highest-paid coaches in the league, earning $ 5 million per season. His contract ran through the 2021-22 campaign.
Julien guided the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011. He ranks 13th in NHL history with 667 career wins.
The 47-year-old Ducharme has served as an assistant coach with Montreal for two seasons.