Rabid Habs

The Forum: Evaluating Claude Julien

Claude Julien hasn’t been in his role as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens for all that long yet, but considering he has a playoff series, an offseason, a preseason, and a half-season’s worth of regular season games under his belt with the Habs this time around, it’s probably fair to say we’re starting to gain a clear idea of just what kind of coach Claude Julien is for this team.

We asked our contributors what they’ve thought about Claude Julien’s performance as the head coach of your Montreal Canadiens so far.


Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – Safe. Claude Julien is a safe coach.

Julien often uses Tomas Plekanec to start overtime because it’s safe. Winning the useless match-up battle in overtime feels safe to him.

Julien won’t lean on his offensive weapons in situations where the team is tied, trailing, or trying to extend the lead because it’s safe. He’d rather assume the loser point than lean on a former 30-goal scorer in the third period because he’s somewhat of a liability in his own zone.

Julien plays Jordie Benn with Shea Weber instead of any of the three more mobile left-handed shots because it’s safe.

Whenever I’m on The Recency Bias, this seems to be my biggest point of contention with the coach. His conservative deployment patterns are infuriating. When the Canadiens were struggling in 15-16, Bergevin said he didn’t want his players to play not to lose; he wanted them to play to win.

Julien’s decision making wreaks of apprehension, which leads me to believe he’s doing more of the former than the latter.

Eventually, Julien is going to need to lean on his best scorers to score; defense be damned. Have your best players do the thing they’re best at. If your team is well built, you’ll win more than you lose.

But that’s another issue entirely…

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – I’m not all that impressed to be honest. He’s not as sand-papery as Therrien was and I’m sure he doesn’t give anyone the now infamous “Danny Brière treatment,” but as far as the team itself…I can’t say it’s been the change we were all hoping for. I want to say that they were looking better on D, and especially the PK when he initially took over, but since letting the D corps fall into shambles, we’re back to a D that is on less than solid ground, I think. Offensively, it’s the same old, same old. A team that has far too much trouble scoring, and is all but barren at C.

As with Therrien, many of Julien’s struggles can be attributed to his boss. To answer the question, I’m not overly impressed with Julien 2.0 but I have more hope for improvement under him than I ever did under Therrien.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – The more engaged I’ve become with fan bases of other teams over the years, primarily through Twitter, it’s become increasingly apparent that no matter how good your coach is, the fan base is going to have some issues with how the coach uses his players. That’s largely because player usage, generally speaking, is the only thing we can tangibly see a coach doing. It’s also because coaches use players in ways we often find hard to comprehend from the outside.

That’s not a defence of Claude Julien, necessarily. More simply an observation about how we evaluate coaches.

I was excited for the Claude Julien era. I believe him to be one of the better coaches in the NHL. But so far I’ve been underwhelmed. Not because I expect a ton more from the team he’s been given, more because I haven’t seen much of a difference from the way things were – from the outside – under Michel Therrien.

The team still depends on Price’s confidence. The team still struggles to score. The special teams are still bleh to meh. Galchenyuk is still an apparent enigma. My main takeaway from all this is that coaches can only do so much to make a team better. Sometimes the team is the team no matter who’s in charge.