Claude Julien Ready For Upcoming Season

On Wednesday August 26th Canadiens, head coach Claude Julien, who had been recovering from a cardiac stenting procedure, took time to speak with the Montreal media via a conference call to recap the season. He first fielded questions about his health and his current situation looking onto next season.

“I can confirm I am doing much better to the point that had we won game six, I would have returned to Toronto. I got a bit of a scare, but now I feel ready to come back in full force.”

He also touched on his experience and that of his players in the NHL bubble.

“I think the NHL did a very good job. We felt very safe despite all the challenges the league was going to face, but all in all, I found it very well organized. They did their best to make it a pleasant situation. You need to give the NHL a lot of credit for pulling it off. I didn’t hate it, in fact, I liked it very much.”

Julien recalls what he went through the night of the occurrence at Fairmont Royal York.

“You never expect to have a situation like that. I had chest pains and I immediately contacted our doctor and we decided it would be best for me to go to the hospital, and at the hospital, that’s when they realized I needed a stent in one of my arteries, and they told me it’s something that happens quite a lot, and it went well. The next day, they released me from the hospital to go back to Montreal and rest. I just didn’t see it coming. I am a former athlete who is in pretty good shape, so it surprised me.”

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Julien also confirmed he will be behind the bench when training camp begins. He said he feels way more comfortable being behind the bench than watching the game on TV.

“I honestly feel better being behind the bench than watching it on TV because at that point, you have a certain amount of control. I really liked how our team was managed from the moment I left, and as Kirk mentioned, the game plan was already in place and we knew what we were doing and we continued to do those things and I was in contact with Kirk everyday to give my opinion. But as coaches, we shared a vision of how we wanted to play and the only thing I did was I let Kirk take control and let him coach how he wanted to do it to make sure he was comfortable. There is nothing worse than being told every little thing to do as he had experience in the past as a head coach. Luke {Richardson} was a head coach in the AHL, Dom {Ducharme} coached in the QMJHL, so all three did a good job at managing the team till the end.”

He gave his thoughts on what he saw from his team and if he believes his club has turned the corner and are ready to compete for the cup.

“That’s what I saw. We saw a team that has turned the corner. Don’t forget, last year when our team was healthy, we had a good start to the season. We all remember the famous match against Washington where we lost Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron in actually one of our best games so far. The injury bug hit us hard and started costing us. We had a lot of young players, who at the time, weren’t able to step up. We had a Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was trying to find himself, so a lot of things happened that we didn’t see in the playoffs. I really think we turned the corner, but we need to realize we are not there yet and need to keep working and keep pushing forward, and if we can keep working and improving, we will be able to turn the corner.”

Julien also spoke about what needs to be done to make the Canadiens a team that is strong as well as competitive.

“There is some adjustments we can make. Marc has already talked about it and we have actually discussed this for quite a while. We feel Carey is at his best when he is well rested and healthy, he’s an incredible goaltender, and you know, more and more teams are being able to rely on a two goalie tandem, but not saying that Carey should be splitting game time. I think we need to take the workload off of Carey so we can get the Carey that we saw in the playoffs more often than not and we want to make sure that whoever is backing up Carey can do that. The fact that we have Romanov coming in next year, no doubt there when you look at our team and how well we played defensively, which allowed us to play more games, so our defensive corp getting a little deeper is something that I like to see. No doubt in our team right now. When it’s at its best, we have more or less four lines going and pushing the pace. You see the Islanders are doing the same thing right now, they push the pace with four lines. I think that’s the secret to our success right now with our hockey club, so hopefully we can get a little bit of depth up front that can allow us to do that, so no doubt we talk about that and there is no doubt Marc will work hard at trying to help improve our team now.”

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Claude was very appreciative of the job Kirk Muller did in his absence.

“Well, I think he did a very good job as Kirk mentioned we had a plan in place for our team and I didn’t see derive after I left if anything we did the same thing and I said it maybe with a little bit of puck luck we might have had a different outcome but we played well, I thought he did a great job, I was in contact with him everyday, we discussed our team and I said the one I was not going to do because putting myself in his shoes I wouldn’t want to be told how to coach so Kirk coached the way he thought to coach he’s got some NHL experience as a head coach and the other guys with him were also head coaches at some point so I really felt confident with those guys continue to do the things we had started and there was no doubt in my mind they were going to do a good job behind the bench so kudos to them I really thanked them, I made sure of doing that after it was said and done and thought they did a great job and it’s not an easy job to step in to try and replace a coach and try and keep things going in the same direction but they did a great job at doing that.”

To cap it off Claude spoke about Max Domi and Nick Suzuki and gave his thoughts on both.

“I think Max had a very good year the first year he arrived in Montreal, he came with a lot of excitement and a lot of energy and used that energy throughout the season. It’s not uncommon for players to have a really good year and then have a down year.”

David Kirouac/Getty Images North America

He also provided his thoughts on centreman Max Domi when it came to positioning.

“I know he likes to play center, he came into training camp playing with Dale Weise, and I know he likes to play with him, so we tried to create this fourth line with Weal, who is a fast guy with skill, but it didn’t work, so we put him back on the wing just to try and create more offence.”

Max Domi, in recent weeks, had taken to Twitter to remove the bio that says he plays for the Montreal Canadiens. This of course being a huge story for the Montreal media.

Julien also believes that Nick Suzuki should be playing at center.

“He kinda reminds me of David Krejci, just a smart, fast player with a good hockey sense.”

The Montreal Canadiens are now in offseason mode and training camp is scheduled for November with the NHL season set to start in December. There is no official word from the league for the plan going forward once the Cup is awarded. That’ll be the start of October before players head home for a much needed rest.

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