“The change had to be made” Bergevin

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As Marc Bergevin’s news conference was about to begin Wednesday morning in Brossard, a respected francophone journalist who has covered the Canadiens for decades turned his head slightly and simply said: “un autre.”

Another one.

Bergevin announced Tuesday afternoon that he had fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien, who was fired by the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7. This marks the 11th coaching change for the Canadiens since Jacques Demers led the club to its 24th Stanley Cup in 1993 and was then fired five games into the 1995-96 season.

You might want to take a deep breath before reading this list of Canadiens coaches since then: Mario Tremblay, Alain Vigneault, Therrien (first stint), Julien (first stint), Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Gainey (again), Jacques Martin, Randy Cunneyworth, Therrien (second stint), Julien (second stint).

OK, you can exhale … for now.

All those coaching changes have failed to deliver a single Stanley Cup — or even a trip to the final — and the Canadiens have missed the playoffs seven times since Demers was fired, while advancing as far as the conference final only twice, the last time under Therrien three years ago.

There have been all kinds of reasons and excuses for the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup drought and once again a general manager is hoping a coaching change will fix everything.

Don’t bet on it.

“We’re just not playing our game,” Bergevin said Wednesday. “We’re not the same team as we were earlier on. There was something missing. The team performance for me showed that there was something not right and the change had to be made.”

The Canadiens remain in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 31-19-8 record, but they have been getting steadily worse since a 13-1-1 start and are 1-5-1 in their last seven games. 

Julien has a new contract with the Canadiens that has five years on it after this season, but there’s definitely a sense of urgency surrounding a club that looks on the verge of collapsing for the second straight year. Last year, it came after goalie Carey Price suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 25 and this season it seems to have started on Dec. 16 after Price was pulled by Therrien 26:44 into a game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre after allowing four goals on 18 shots. The goalie appeared to stare down his coach as he left the ice.

Since that game, Price has an 8-11-3 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.

On Wednesday, Bergevin was asked if that was the game where Therrien lost his star player.

“I don’t think so … that’s not what I believe,” Bergevin said. “The only one that could answer that question is Carey, first of all.

If Price doesn’t improve, it won’t matter what Julien does behind the bench. And if Canadiens fans are hoping for a blockbuster deal before the March 1 NHL trade deadline, don’t hold your breath.

Bergevin insisted he would not give up his top prospects, including defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, in any trade and when asked about improving his team down the middle the GM said: “Elite centremen are not available, so it’s not going to happen.

“You see there’s barely any trades in the NHL and there’s a reason why,” Bergevin added. “You make your team in July, you hope you stay healthy and you try to address some needs at the deadline. But again, it’s what’s the price going to be? And if it’s asking for our young prospect, it will not happen.”

So it looks like the rest of this season could come down to Julien and the players already in place. Bergevin was supposed to have fixed last season’s leadership issue by dealing away P.K. Subban and bringing in Shea Weber, but it certainly looks like leadership is still a problem on a team that simply can’t get back on track after something goes wrong.

“I don’t see it that way,” Bergevin said. “That’s your opinion, I respect that. But I see we have strong leadership, and if you name a few guys I think we’re very strong: Weby, Pricey, Patch, they all stepped up at some point. And right now, obviously, if the team didn’t perform the way it has recently, I wouldn’t be standing here. So at the end of the day, they have to step their game even to another level.”

They better, or this could get ugly. There really are no more excuses left with Subban and Therrien both gone.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1 

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