Wild Ending? Minnesota Coach Jacques Lemaire May Retire at End of Season

Nick MaxsonCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2009

CHICAGO - JANUARY 19:  Head coach Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild looks down ice against the Chicago Blackhawks January 19, 2007 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Minnesota Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire according to some reports have suggested that he may retire at the end of this season.

Lemaire is in his eighth season with the Wild, Minnesota's only coach since the expansion in 2000; and his 15th overall as a head coach in the NHL.

Born in September of 1945 in Lasalle, Quebec, Lemaire's love of hockey just like every other hockey fan or player, started at very young age.

That love transformed into an astonishing hockey career many only could dream to have.

Before beginning his coaching career however, Jacques Lemaire had a all-star career as a player.

During his time in the minors, Lemaire spent three of his five years with the Montreal Junior Canadiens. During the 1965-66 season, he recorded 41 goals and 52 assists in just 48 games.

Lemaire began his first NHL season in 1967 and would play all of his professional career as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

In 12 seasons, Lemaire recorded 366 goals and 469 assists and won eight Stanley Cup titles.

He is also only a handful of players who have scored two Stanley Cup winning goals, Lemaire did it in 1977 and 1979.

He scored at least 20 goals in all 12 seasons with a career high of 44 goals and 51 assists in the 1972-73 season.

Lemaire retired following the 1978-79 season after winning his eighth Stanley Cup and then transitioned from all-star player to all-star coach.

He began his coaching career shortly after his retirement in Switzerland. Shortly after, he returned to coach the Canadiens from 1983-1985.

He was then promoted to Assistant General Manager at the beginning of the 1985-86 season and won two Stanley Cups one in 1986 and another in 1993.

Jacques returned to coaching at the start of the 1993-94 season with the New Jersey Devils where he would stay for the next five seasons winning his first Stanley Cup as a coach with the Devils in 1995.

After a brief two years off from coaching, the Minnesota Wild selected Lemaire to be the first head coach of the newly founded expansion team in 2000.

In his eight seasons with the Wild, Jacques has reached the playoffs three times, going as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2003.

It was during this postseason where Minnesota rallied from being down 3-1 in the series twice in the same playoff year. The Wild rallied back against Colorado in the first round and then again against Vancouver in the second round.

The Wild have recently reached the playoffs two years in a row, but had quick first round exits.

Last season, Minnesota captured its first Northwest division title and secured the third seed and home ice in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

After a first round loss to sixth seed Colorado, Lemaire questioned his coaching abilities and even needed reassurance from Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough.

This season has been a rollercoaster for Minnesota, currently seeded outside of the playoffs with 10 regular season games remaining.

With a group of many young players, the loss of Marain Gaborik to all but now seven regular season games, and inconsistent play on both sides of the puck has made it a tough year for the Wild, and even worse on Lemaire.

According to Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Lemaire has dropped a few hints that he may retire soon.

"In my personal opinion, I think he won't come back,' said Lou Nanne, the former North Stars defenseman and general manager to Souhan.

"Jacques is a very intense guy. He's a tremendous teacher, and it's all-encompassing to him. He's been here longer than he's been anywhere else. He's enjoyed it, loved it, but he gets to the point where he thinks, 'I've spent a lot of time in hockey and I might want to enjoy some of my life.'

"He's got a place in Florida and a place in Montreal and here he is, in the rink all the time. Just what I've seen this year, watching and listening to him, in my mind, I think his attitude is going to be that he's had enough of hockey."

Jacques Lemaire has a reputation of being the best teacher of young players in the NHL. He works extremely hard with his players to make them better so they fall into his system of play.

Ask defenseman Brent Burns, who was drafted as a forward and was converted by Lemaire to be a defenseman. Over the last few seasons Burns has grown into one of the most under-rated young defenseman in the NHL.

To hockey fans and players in Minnesota, and around the entire hockey community throughout North America, the retirement of Jacques Lemaire will be heart breaking news.

However as everyone does, we will thank him from the corners of our hearts for everything he has done and wish him well on his next adventures.

Throughout his entire life Lemaire has given fans and players alike a chance of loving the game. His tremendous service to the game has given him a spot in the NHL Hall of Fame, and will be a name that will be spoken of for many years to come.

If Jacques Lemaire does retire at the end of the year, one big question will have to be answered. Who will replace Lemaire and why would he be the best fit in Minnesota?

Whoever that may be if the time comes will have some big shoes to fill, and a large group of young talent to work with. That decision will ultimately be decided by President and General Manager Doug Risebrough.

Minnesota has always been the "state of hockey", the passion for the sport runs through the blood of every Minnesotan. From little leagues to high school, and college to the NHL, Jacques Lemaire has only added to the legacy of the "Team of 18,000."

Whatever happens come season end, one thing can be sure. Even if Lemaire decides to retire, his coaching legacy will never leave hearts and minds of the state of Minnesota.

Thank you Jacques for all you have done, you have inspired a generation of hockey fans and players. You will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of those who love the game of hockey forever.


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