PAST is prelude and we've seen this movie before. The Devils aren't simply going back to Jacques Lemaire to coach the team that Brent Sutter walked out on. They are going to be going backwards -- backwards into the neutral zone, backwards in the standings.
Lou Lamoriello's decision to hire Lemaire 11 years after the end of a first five-year term that put the Devils on the NHL map but ultimately ended in underachievement is a misplaced reach into the past.
The future belongs to coaches who can, have and will adapt to a game that is evolving into a showcase for offensive talent, risk/reward attack, and creative, puck-possession teams. Lemaire, though, is wedded to the past. He is an obstinate, safety-first zealot whose defensive demands stifle creativity no matter how much he might disagree.
Lemaire was a great coach for two seasons after arriving in New Jersey in 1993-94. He was a guide to excellence who won a Stanley Cup in 1995 and then made the fatal mistake of thinking that he and his system had been more responsible for winning the championship than Claude Lemieux, Scott Stevens, John MacLean, Stephane Richer, Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers.
The Devils trapped in Lemaire's first two seasons, but they also attacked. Indeed, New Jersey finished second in the league in scoring in 1993-94 before losing to the Rangers in the epochal seven-game Eastern Conference finals.
But Lemaire's Devils didn't attack after winning the Cup. They backed up. They changed incessantly on the fly so that Lemaire could match his checking lines (plural) against the opposition's top guns on every single shift in every single game. His scorers got considerably less ice than their peers around the NHL.
That was then. This is almost now -- two years ago when Lemaire was coaching the Wild, winger Marian Gaborik finished seventh in the NHL with 42 goals. He was 43rd in the league among forwards in ice time with 19:35 per game and fourth among Wild forwards, trailing Brian Rolston, Mikko Koivu and Pavol Demitra.
And that stat wrapped in Lemaire's philosophy explains why Gaborik rejected Minnesota's contract extension offer this past October of 10 years at $78 million. The winger instead signed a five-year, $37.5M free agent contract with the Rangers.
Edited by DINO COSTA, 14 July 2009 - 04:23 AM.