The Return of Jacques Lemaire

levinakl@levinaklCorrespondent IIIJuly 13, 2009

20 Nov 1997: Jacques Lemaire of the New Jersey Devils blows a bubble during the game against the New York Islanders at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 5-1.

Was it irony or not?  On the 2nd anniversary of Brent Sutter's hiring as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, the Devils announced his replacement. They brought back an old face in Jacques Lemaire. 

While Lemaire wasn't necessarily my first choice for the head coaching vacancy, it is hard to knock the selection at all.  Lemaire had a successful five season run with the Devils from 1993-98, boasting a record of 199-122-57 in those seasons.  In that span, he won a Stanley Cup Championship in 1995, and added instant credibility to the bench for the Devils. 

He also brings eleven Stanley Cup rings with him, won as a player, coach, and executive.  He has a career coaching record of 540-414-124-53 in 14 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Minnesota Wild, where he spent the last nine seasons.

For all the people out there who think the Devils will return to a complete trapping style of play, I ask you to sit back and give this team a chance.  The level of talent has changed for sure, as guys like Zach Parise and Patrik Elias should excel under Lemaire's tutelage.  Lemaire will play to the strengths of the team on both sides of the ice.

Not only have the players changed in New Jersey, but the game itself has changed greatly as well.  The days of clutching and grabbing are a thing of the past, and the aggressive forecheck implemented by previous coach Brent Sutter should be built upon to create future success.  Lemaire is known for his ability to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of his hockey team, and it should be no different when he takes the helm for the Devils.

It is not a hire that I stand up and scream about, but as I said previously, if anyone knocks the hiring of Lemaire they aren't looking at the facts.  The only real knock I can come up with is when I wonder how long Lemaire expects to be around.  At age 63 (turns 64 in September), that is an obvious question, but I foresee at least a two season run in store for Lemaire.  That will at least equal the tenure of his predecessor, Brent Sutter.

The young kids that come in should benefit greatly from his teaching.  Andy Greene, for instance, should make a huge stride in his development this upcoming season.  In addition, a player like Brian Rolston should be expected to take his game back to his previous level before last season's injury-ridden season.  The obvious benefits for Lemaire's arrival should be easy to identify.

Beyond the obvious benefits, the residual benefits from potential future Devils like Nicklas Bergfors, Matt Corrente, and Tyler Eckford should payoff tenfold.  This should only make them more appealing and ready to contribute in the near future for the Devils.

To me, this is a very good hire, and time will tell whether or not I am correct.