The New Jersey Devils, currently second in the Eastern Conference, fired coach Claude Julien on Monday.
General manager Lou Lamoriello will take over behind the bench, the second straight season he has done so.
Lamoriello told the Canadian Press it was not an easy decision to make.
"I did not feel that we were going in the right direction, both mentally and hockey [-wise], going into the playoffs, for a variety of reasons," Lamoriello told the Canadian Press.
Julien guided New Jersey to a 47-24-8 record in his first season coaching the club. The team's 102 points are tied for sixth-best in the league.
The Devils defeated Boston 3-1 on Sunday, the team's second straight win after dropping five of their previous eight games.
"The way we put ourselves in this organization, you have to look at the big picture," Lamoriello said. "To say that 102 points today isn't an excellent accomplishment, it's extremely positive.
"But I have to look at a lot of factors."
The team's record has in large part been influenced by another outstanding season from all-star goaltender Martin Brodeur, who has a league-best 12 shutouts and is on pace to break Bernie Parent's record for 47 wins in a season.
At the other end of the ice, the Devils have scored the fourth-fewest goals per game in the NHL. Forwards Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez have each missed several games, contributingto the dip in offence.
The organizationhas been operating with little room under the salary cap this season, and made no dealsbefore the trade deadline.
"I think everybody takes responsibility, including me," Lamoriello said.
The late season change is not without precedent for the club.
In 2000, Lamoriello fired coach Robbie Ftorek with just nine games left in the season. Assistant coach Larry Robinson took over, and the Devils defeated Dallas to win the Stanley Cup.
Lamoriello said Monday that positive result had no bearing on the Julien decision.
Last season, Lamoriello took over behind the bench when Robinson stepped down, citing exhaustion.
Although the Devils entered the playoffs as the NHL's hottest team, they were eliminated in the second round. The club had won 15 straight games before being dispatched in five by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, Carolina.
"It was never my intention to ever possibly go back [behind the bench] again," Lamoriello said on Monday. "It's just the timing to put somebody else in at this time with the number of games left wouldn't have been fair."
The Devils have won three Cups since 1995, each with a different coach. Jacques Lemaire (1995) and Pat Burns (2003) were at the helm for the other two wins.
It was Julien's second head coaching job in the NHL. He coached Montreal from 2003 to midway through the 2006 season, when he was fired and replaced by general manager Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau.
Julien's record in the NHL is 119-86-16, with 17 ties.
Until last season, Lamoriello, 64,had not served as a head coach since 1980 with Providence College. New Jersey went 32-14-4 during the season with him behind the bench.