Fantasy Take: Claude Julien Fired by Montreal

Alexander MacLean

2021-02-24

In a move that some Canadiens fans had been praying for for a while now, a 5-4 shootout loss to the basement dwelling Ottawa Senators was the last straw in Julien’s tenure as he was fired Wednesday morning. Julien had a successful set of regular seasons with the team, compiling a 129-123-35 record in his second coaching run with Montreal, but never making it past the first round of the playoffs. In a year where hopes are high as one of the top teams in the Canadian division Scotiabank NHL North Division, Julien just wasn’t getting it done. Mark Bergevin seems to be feeling some heat and is pulling out all the stops this year. Dominic Ducharme has been with the team as an assistant coach since 2018, and has been named interim head coach. Alex Burrows has also been added to the staff.

As of Wednesday, the Canadiens had dropped down to fourth in the division at 22 points in 18 games, though with a three point cushion and one game in hand over the fifth place Flames. The team has all of the pieces to make a run through the playoffs this year, and that’s what this season is all about. However, Carey Price has struggled of late, and the forwards need a bit of a spark. It’s tough to know what exactly a new coach will do with lines and strategies, but the depth in Montreal provides some options.

Julien and his strong defensive systems seemed to be the perfect fit for a team built around a star goaltender and depth through the lineup, but the results haven’t come this year. Often it takes some unsustainable bad luck for a coach to be fired, but that wasn’t the case in Montreal, as it was some unsustainable good luck in this case that came crashing back down to earth. This means that an immediate rebound in player production due to some positive regression is not something we can count on. The underlying stats are a little surprising, the team is actually still fourth in the league in PDO, and had the best Corsi-For in the league. If anything, the team is actually going to take a step back as they learn some possible new systems and see some further statistical regression. Julien is a good coach, and may have actually been getting more than the sum of the parts out of his roster.

One of the main issues leading to the firing is that Price is having one of his worst statistical seasons. Maybe a new coach can help him out, which would lead to some team wins. However, with a small regression on offence coming, if there isn’t an improvement in net, then things are going to start snowballing pret