Canadiens GM denies Claude Julien influenced Therrien firing

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The sequence of events seemed rather evident.

The Boston Bruins fired Claude Julien on February 7. Two days later, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin held a meeting with three key veteran players – Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber – and without coach Michel Therrien present.

Five days after that, Therrien was fired and Julien was hired.

But Bergevin says the “obvious” isn’t accurate. That his decision on Therrien wasn’t related to the availability of Julien.

“I didn’t make my decision based on how Boston operates,” said Bergevin on Wednesday.

“We were at a turning point for our team. We’re just not playing our game. There was something missing.”

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That notion was seemingly backed up by this morning’s news that the Canadiens had reached out to the Florida Panthers for permission to speak with former coach Gerard Gallant, which isn’t something they’re going to do if a coaching change, rather than simply hiring Julien, isn’t the ultimate motivation.

As for that players-only meeting? Bergevin said it was a meeting Therrien could have attended and opted not to, as it was an off-day for the team. “That was blown out of proportion. It was not about Michel,” he said.

What was it about Julien that Bergevin liked? He got to know him at the World Cup of Hockey last September. “Within 30 seconds, you know how they make you feel. I felt right away that Claude was a good man. Had integrity,” he said.

But Julien also fits the bill for a Montreal head coach: Not only because he’s bilingual, but because he knows the market, having started his NHL coaching career there from 2002-06.

“He learned a lot. Montreal is a tough market,” said Bergevin.

As for Therrien, who coached the Canadiens to first place in the Atlantic Division but who failed to keep up the momentum of their 13-1-1 start, Bergevin said his friend fought for his job until the very end, even if he knew why his general manager was seeking to speak with him on Tuesday.

“I believe he knew. It was hard. Hard for him, and hard for me,” he said. “Mike is a guy that fought his whole life to get where he is today.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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