The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Claude Julien on Wednesday.
Dominique Ducharme was named the interim coach, and the team added longtime NHL winger Alex Burrows to the coaching staff. The Canadiens also fired assistant coach Kirk Muller, who served as interim coach in the 2020 playoffs after Julien was hospitalized with chest pains and underwent a heart procedure.
The Canadiens were one of the hottest teams in the NHL to begin the season and appeared to be serious challengers for the North Division. However, the Habs have won only two of their past eight games and were demoralized by losing back-to-back games in the shootout to the bottom-dwelling Ottawa Senators.
Montreal is 9-5-4; although the Canadiens are eight points behind the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, they are still comfortably in the fourth spot, which would qualify for the playoffs.
Expectations were heightened this season after general manager Marc Bergevin was extremely active in the offseason. Bergevin upgraded at every position, bringing in veteran backup goalie Jake Allen, trading for defenseman Joel Edmundson and bringing in several new forwards, including Tyler Toffoli (team-leading 12 goals) and Josh Anderson (fourth on the team with 12 points).
Julien, 60, was one of the highest-paid coaches in the NHL, earning $5 million per season. His contract ran through the 2021-22 season.
Julien led Boston to a Stanley Cup in 2011, and he ranks 13th in NHL history with 667 career wins.
"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," 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. "
Ducharme, 47, has been an assistant coach with Montreal for two seasons.