Lemaire thinks he is so funny!
The New Jersey Devils held their annual team awards today but head coach Jacques Lemaire stole the show.
He opened the ceremony by telling the crowd of season ticket holders that he was coming back next season. The crowd erupted into cheers. But it turned out Lemaire was just pulling their collective legs.
“The answer (about returning) is I will be back,” Lemaire said, “I just don’t know what time.”
Lemaire was referring to the mid-season phone call from GM Lou Lamoriello coaxing him out of retirement. Lemaire returned to the Devils in late December after the axing of first year coach John Maclean.
Many including long time Devils fans considered the team dead and buried, but under Lemaire New Jersey climbed out of a 27 point hole to get within 6 points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Although it was clear Lemaire was just trying to have fun with the crowd some fans in attendance didn’t get the joke. The Devils official Facebook page became a buzz with talk of Lemaire’s commitment to return.
But, I was told by Devils beat writer Tom Gulitti that in fact Lemaire was “just teasing,” and Lemaire has yet to decide on his future behind the bench.
As far as the awards went, top honors went to Patrick Elias.
Elias earned team MVP for the second time in his career. In 2000-01 he shared the award with goaltender Martin Brodeur. Travis Zajac was named the Devils’ Unsung Hero and Johan Hedberg earned the Players’ Player.
Elias is the Devils all-time leading scorer leads all players this season with 61 points. His empty net goal on Wednesday gave him 20 goals for the ninth time in his 13 seasons with New Jersey. He is also second on the team in game winning goals with five game.
Zajac is the teams top face off man and collected 40 points for the fourth time in his five year career.
Hedberg’s 14-12-2 record and 2.39 goals-against average helped the Devils climb back into playoff contention when Brodeur struggled. He also had three shutouts.
Today was a day for the players to thank each other and start preparing for next season. For fans today was a chance to appreciate their teams its players and look forward to another decade of excellence in New Jersey.
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Lemaire Teases Crowd at Devils Team Awards
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