(Reuters) - The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien as his replacement, the National Hockey League team said on Tuesday.
Julien, who was fired as coach of the Boston Bruins last week, takes over a Montreal team that have seen their lead in the Atlantic Division diminish after a slow start to 2017.
"Today we hired the best available coach, and one of the league's best," Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "I am convinced that he has the capabilities to get our team back on the winning track."
The decision to change coaches comes as the Canadiens, clinging to a six-point division lead, have lost six of their last seven games.
Julien, a former coach of the year who led Boston to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years when they triumphed in 2011, is entering his second tour of duty as head coach of the Canadiens after assuming the role from January 2003 to January 2006.
After his first stint with Montreal, Julien coached the New Jersey Devils before being hired by the Bruins in 2007.
Therrien, who was named coach of the Canadiens in 2012, led Montreal to division titles in 2013 and 2015 as well as a trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 2014.
"The decision to remove Michel from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have lots of respect for him," said Bergevin. "I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice, a new direction."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto. Editing by Steve Keating)