Ah, mid-July. The time of year when its very easy to get away from all things hockey related. Free agency has died down to a trickle, and most players and executives are on vacation. It's the time of year when a mid-scrimmage fight at prospects camp becomes the top headline on a team's website. Except of course, if you're the New Jersey Devils, who still did not have a head coach to replace the grandest of all liars, Brent Sutter. And suddenly, the floodgates opened. Jacques Lemaire, back in the fold, bringing Mario Tremblay with him. MacLean accepting head coaching job in Lowell. Scott Stevens becoming an active tutor, Chris Terreri slowly but surely succeeding Jacques Caron as goaltending coach. Sure, no players were involved, but it was nonetheless a rather busy day by Devils standards. And while those of us here in Jersey (read: reality) love the signing, even if it comes with a tiny bit of skepticism, the hockey media is having a field day with it.
Okay, The Hockey News, we get it, it’s cool to hate Lemaire and it’s cool to hate the Devils. In fact I'm pretty sure you're the ones who started that trend. You must be so proud. To be honest, THN, I don't much care what you have to say. I've learned over the years that your writers are very much the hockey equivalents of Rush Limbaugh. You say things for shock value, not because you actually believe them. So fine, have your fun...preach like a darn prophet that 2010 will be 1995 all over again. Hey, if it means we win the Cup, you won't find me complaining as we trap and clutch and grab our way to a parade down Mulberry Street.
But enough about those hacks. I'm here to talk about why Jacques Lemaire will be a great coach. Now, as usual, I've broken my argument down into easy-to-digest numbered points...nice and easy to read for all you THN writers out there. Keep practicing friends, you'll get there.
1. Jacques works well with the young players.
Jacques Lemaire was terrific with a young Martin Brodeur, among other Devils youngsters, back in the mid 1990s, and considering the era of Devils history we are about to undergo this is the guy you want around. He knows how to get the most out of young talent, which means—oh dear god, Nicklas Bergfors might actually be played where he belongs and NOT on the fourth line? I must be dreaming.
2. Jacques can deal with Lou.
It takes a special breed to be able to play to the demands of master micromanager Lou Lamoriello and also manage to keep one's sanity intact. Lemaire is such a coach. Not that Sutter wasn't, but he quit on us and left, so...not really a relevant point anymore.
3. Jacques is probably just a placeholder.
John MacLean was just named the head coach of the Lowell Devils. Since I seem to see these things coming quite frequently, my early guess is that MacLean will get some head coaching experience in Lowell and be groomed to succeed Lemaire in a few years. It makes too much sense not to happen. Think about it...Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma are now coaching a substantial crop of young players they had already coached in the AHL. With the new youth movement in full swing here in Jersey, MacLean may be about to meet the very same players he will be coaching in the NHL when his time comes. The players grow with the coach and vice versa, everybody wins.
Now this is not to say Lemaire hasn't lost his touch, and might somehow believe that 1990s hockey can still succeed when we all know it really can't. But early comments from both Lemaire and Lamoriello suggest the perfect scenario where success is almost guaranteed. Lemaire will come in and solidify the defensive side of our game, which clearly needs intensive rehab after last year's playoffs. At the same time, he maintains the offense and the forechecking, and plays to the strengths of players like Parise and Elias, something he is also infamous for.
The players all want him, Lou wanted him, and most Devils fans wanted him. All he has to do is show up, leave the offense alone while solidifying the back end, and we can kill two birds with one stone; the one how Lemaire is bad for hockey, and the one that he won't get his name on the Cup for the 12th time.