What went wrong for Claude Julien in Montréal?

Montréal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin fired head coach Claude Julien on Wednesday afternoon, ending the Stanley Cup-winning coach's four-year run with the team. Only two weeks ago, this outcome would have been unthinkable; the Habs were the hottest team in hockey, and their apparent turnaround thrust Julien to the front of the line as an early Jack Adams candidate. They were dominating games, leading the league in almost every 5-on-5 category including goals, expected goals, and shot attempts. Authoritative performances against the Vancouver Canucks drew plenty of attention and it seemed like the time had finally come for the Habs to go from analytical darlings to an actual contender.

Something changed in February. The Habs looked like a group of players operating to the beat of their own drum; a group that lost confidence in each other and in the system. Such a collapse is rarely just the fault of the coaching staff, but it still points to a divide or a lack of chemistry between the players and the staff. On the heels of five losses in six games and two demoralizing performances against the league-worst Senators, the heady days of late January seemed like a distant memory. As a result, after four and five years respectively at the helm of the team, Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller collected their walking papers.

So what happened? Did this team fall back into old habits? Did their early-season hot streak set unrealistic expectations? Was the system the problem? Or is this yet another example of an excellent coach being done in by bad percentage luck - is Julien just the latest victim of poor goaltending and a shooting slump? Through a combination of video and statistical analysis, we're going to try and answer that question. The best explanation for Montréal's slide in the standings and the ensuing firing is that the team suffered the violent counter-swing of regression, a mean hangover after a particularly enjoyable goal-fest to start of the year. Slowly, through their drought, the team got away from their strengths, which ultimately led to the axe falling on the coaching staff. {

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NHL Montréal Canadiens NHL Josh Anderson Joel Armia Paul Byron Joel Edmundson Jesperi Kotkaniemi Brett Kulak Alexander Romanov Nick Suzuki Tyler Toffoli Shea Weber
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