The Montreal Canadiens have turned to Claude Julien as head coach in an attempt to avert another collapse, the NHL team announced.
Michel Therrien, who had coached Montreal the last five seasons, was relieved of his duties on Tuesday in the bizarre midseason swap, which comes as the Canadiens have lost 10 of their last 13 games.
Julien had been on the market for a week after he was sacked by the Boston Bruins on February 7.
Ironically, the Canadiens lost to the Bruins and Julien's successor Bruce Cassidy in a listless 4-0 decision on Sunday, likely setting in motion Therrien's long-rumoured ouster.
"The decision to remove Michel from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have lots of respect for him," Canadiens general Marc Bergevin said in a release. "I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice, a new direction.
"Claude Julien is an experienced and well respected coach with a good knowledge of the Montreal market. Claude has been very successful as an NHL coach and he won the Stanley Cup. Today we hired the best available coach, and one of the league's best. I am convinced that he has the capabilities to get our team back on the winning track."
Therrien had Montreal atop the Atlantic Division, but the season, buoyed by a hot start, was beginning to enter a freefall similar to the one that kept the club out of the playoffs a year ago.
Montreal's talented roster suddenly could not score, averaging just 2.07 goals per game in the 13-game slump, including three shutouts in their last five outings.
The main difference between last year's collapse on the makings of an rerun is the presence of goalie Carey Price, who was injured most of last season, and defenseman Shea Weber, who was in Nashville then.
Price's play especially has dipped off significantly since 2016 turned to 2017, having allowed three or more goals in 11 of his last 16 starts.
Therrien, hired for a second stint with the Canadiens in 2012, was said to have lost the locker room. And with the success shown by teams who recently fired their coaches - the St Louis Blues are 5-1 under Mike Yeo, who replaced Ken Hitchcock February 1; the Bruins are 3-0 with Cassidy — the time to make a move to salvage the season was now.
Therrien finished his encore run in Montreal with a 165-107-32 record, but failed to build on the franchise's Eastern Conference finals appearance in 2012-2013, his first season.
Julien, 56, coached the Bruins to a 419-246-94 record during his 10 seasons in Boston, including a Stanley Cup title in 2010-11.
But his tenure came undone as the Bruins started the season 26-23-6, an unacceptable ledger given the team's back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs.
To begin his Montreal trial, Julien will inherit all of Therrien's assistants, who were retained by the club.