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GM Gainey takes over as coach, then Carbonneau

MONTREAL -- General manager Bob Gainey decided he was the
best person to straighten out the slumping Montreal Canadiens.

Gainey fired coach Claude Julien on Saturday and made himself
interim coach. He also brought in former team captain Guy
Carbonneau as an associate coach who will take over as head coach
at the end of the season.

"I'm the one who's responsible and this gives time for Guy to
get comfortable with the team and the players," Gainey said.
"It's more fair for myself to step in and take responsibility
until the end of the season."

Julien, hired on Jan. 17, 2003, leaves his first NHL coaching
job with a 72-62-10 record. He helped Montreal reach the second
round of the playoffs in 2004.

But after a 12-3-1 start, the Canadiens won only seven of the
next 25 games and dropped from first to 10th in the Eastern
Conference. They were coming off a 2-1 loss in Colorado on
Wednesday night in which they blew a third-period lead.

"The coach is our boss and he makes everyone accountable and if
it doesn't happen, like in any job, the guy in charge pays the
price," team captain Saku Koivu said. "But it's always
unfortunate when it happens."

Assistant Rick Green also was fired. Doug Jarvis was promoted
from assistant to associate coach, while goaltender coach Roland
Melanson remained in his job.

Gainey, a former head coach in Minnesota, made his coaching
debut with the Canadiens on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks. Montreal scored six times in the second period for a 6-2 victory.

The 52-year-old Gainey, a top defensive forward who helped
Montreal win five Stanley Cup titles during his Hall of Fame
playing career, became head coach of the former Minnesota North
Stars in 1990. He was coach and general manager for the Stars from
1992-96, and remained the GM until 2002, winning a Stanley Cup in
1999.

Gainey said a coaching change was needed to get some of the
team's best players, particularly goalie Jose Theodore and
defensemen Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov, to play better.

"There are players who went through tough times, maybe injuries
or personal things," Gainey said. "It's normal for a player to go
through periods where they're not at their best, but when it goes
on for a month or more, it's not normal.

"A team can't function unless its key players give their
maximum."

The move also adds a solid dose of leadership -- Gainey and
Carbonneau were two of Montreal's most respected captains in the
last 25 years -- to a team that has been lacking direction in recent
months.

Gainey notified Julien of the change by phone early Saturday
morning and will meet with him later this week. Julien and Green
both remain under contract.

Julien is the third head coach fired in the NHL this season
after Ed Olczyk in Pittsburgh and Steve Stirling of the New York
Islanders. Larry Robinson stepped down as coach of the New Jersey
Devils on Dec. 19.

Carbonneau, who was serving as assistant GM for the Dallas
Stars, worked as an assistant coach under Michel Therrien in
Montreal from 2000-02.

He said the decision to return to Montreal was an easy one.

"I really enjoyed the experience when I came here five years
ago, being behind the bench with Michel Therrien," said
Carbonneau, who has no head coaching experience. "I couldn't wait
for a second chance to come back in a different position."

Gainey and Carbonneau played together in Montreal and worked
together in Dallas.

"I've been gone from here for three years," said Carbonneau.
"I don't know a lot of the players that are here, so I think it
would have been unfair for me to come in and try to control
everything from the start."

Carbonneau said he has a long-term contract as head coach but
did not say how many years it will run. Dallas did not demand
compensation for letting him go.