Canadiens Ax Therrien

Archived from 2002-03 season.

NHL teams

The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien on Friday after hockey's most storied franchise won just two of its last 12 games.

"It was a very difficult decision to take," general manager Andre Savard said. "I had confidence that the situation would get better, that we would start winning games. But it didn't happen."

Therrien was replaced by Claude Julien, who coached the Canadiens' AHL affiliate in Hamilton, Ontario. He's the fourth consecutive choice by Montreal without NHL head-coaching experience.

"To be able to realize a dream of having the privilege and the honor to coach this team is unbelievable," Julien said. "When Andre called me and offered me the job, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do it."

Savard said made the decision to change coaches after Thursday night's 4-1 loss in Philadelphia and told Therrien on Friday morning before the Canadiens' practice.

The loss in Atlanta really hurt but you have to look at the whole month," Savard said.

The Canadiens are fourth in the Northeast Division at 18-19-4-5 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

"A lot of times a change in a team will give a spark to the team, and that's what we're looking for," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "We have to be more emotional. We have to show more intensity and I guess in the last five to 10 games we played flat. They felt that something had to be done and we have to respond."

"Michel gave me the first chance to play a lot and be a No. 1 guy ... so I owe a lot to Michel," said goalie Jose Theodore. "I think he's a great coach. It's just a lot of times, when a team's not playing up to the level that we should, the coach pays the price."

Julien was in his third season as coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Bulldogs lead the AHL with 72 points and a record of 33-6-3-3.

"I like to think of myself as a coach who gets the players to buy into my system," Julien said. "You see the successful teams around the league, it doesn't matter who they have on the roster but they're all playing the same system. Everybody's on the same page and that's basically what I want to do here in Montreal."

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