To hear him explain it, Claude Julien expected his unemployment to last longer than a week.
“When I was let go by the Bruins, I felt like I should sit back and let the season finish, and go from there,” Julien said in his introductory presser as Montreal’s new bench boss. “That was my initial thought. But I always said ‘unless something comes along that I can’t turn down, that would be what I was looking for.'”
That something was a return to the Canadiens, the club he coached from 2003-06.
Enticed by the opportunity to lead the first-place team in the Atlantic Division — “this team has the best goalie in the world, good defensemen, players who can move the puck, and talent up front,” he said — Julien decided against taking a wait-and-see approach, opting instead to jump right back into coaching.
And surely, GM Marc Bergevin’s contract offer helped him make the leap.
Julien confirmed he received a deal that goes through this season and the next five as well (which, not coincidentally, is the same length of term as Bergevin’s.) That puts Julien under contract through 2022.
Despite this opportunity, Julien did admit he thought seriously about taking some time away. He called his dismissal in Boston “not a shocker, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” and admitted it was disappointing for his 10-year tenure to end the way it did.
But now, it’s onto Montreal.
Here are some other key takeaways from today’s presser:
— Julien confirmed no changes will be made to the Canadiens’ coaching staff of associate coach Kirk Muller, assistants Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin and J.J. Daigneault, and goalie coach Stephane Waite.
— He didn’t delve too deeply into strategic changes he wanted to employ, or how differently the Habs will play under his guidance. Julien did allude to the club “playing with pace,” and referenced a forward group that’s had a difficult time finding the back of the net lately.
— “I want the puck,” Julien said with regards to style of play. “If you watch the Bruins we also recovered pucks, but I want both. I want a good statistic for puck possession.”
In the end, though, everything came back to opportunity. Bergevin clearly saw one when Julien became available, even though his remarks tried to suggest otherwise.
“Maybe the timing was — you know, Claude let go by Boston last week — but I didn’t make my decision based on how Boston operates,” the GM explained. “That’s just not how I did it, no.”
But Bergevin pounced, and ensured he landed his target with a lucrative offer.
As for Julien, he too saw a major opportunity. To lead another Original Six team. To get closer to home. To take the reins of a team he belives that, when rolling, can be among the league’s best.
“When Marc called me and started talking to me about the situation, it kind of intrigued me,” Julien explained. “By the end of it, and discussing with my wife and everything else, we felt it was a good move — not just business-wise, but also family-wise.
“We really felt it was the right decision to make. Even though it was a little bit quicker than expected, sometimes you have to make some adjustments in your life, and we’re making them.
“We’re happily making them.”