Reaction to Jacques Lemaire's retirement

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Lemaire1.jpgHere’s a rundown of reactions from across the blogosphere on the news
of Jacques Lemaire’s retirement, and what this means for the immediate
future of the franchise.

John
Fischer of In Lou We Trust
as an epic (it’s expected with ILWT)
post on the firing, opining on the past season with Lemaire at the he
helm:

What I felt was the most impressive was how he structured the team so
they could continue winning so many games in November and December in
spite
of all the injuries.  Mind you, these were injuries to Paul Martin, Dainius
Zubrus
, Patrik Elias, etc.,
etc. – a far cry from just a few guys being day-to-day for a week or
so.  The Devils didn’t have a fully healthy roster until Martin came
back in the first half of March 2010.   The Devils have had multiple
rookies from Lowell in the lineup and while it wasn’t always pretty,
the success still came.   Yes, the Devils slumped in the first two
months 2010 (and the first week of March) but short of the very elite
teams, teams tend to regress to their mean over time anyway.

More reactions after the jump.

Greg
Wyshynski of Puck Daddy c
ompares this season to 1998, Lemaire’s
last with the Devils (before this season, of course):

We know that the 2010 New Jersey Devils are the 1998 New Jersey
Devils, who lost in the first round against the Ottawa Senators. That
postseason saw a superstar veteran acquisition, who never fit the
system, play well in his final games for the franchise (Doug Gilmour
then; Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) potentially now);
Devils mainstays underachieve mightily in the playoffs (leading
goal-scorer Bobby Holik(notes) earned no points and a
minus-4 then; Jamie Langenbrunner’s(notes) one assist and a
minus-1 now); and Lemaire leave the bench after the season, after both
first-round disasters may have indicated players were quitting on him
and his methods.

Adrian Dater, writing
for Versus.com
, says that Lou Lamoriello should perhaps look at
himself now:

Jacques Lemaire was the latest New Jersey Devils coach to fall on his
sword, stepping down from the bench Monday after a disastrous
five-game first-round loss to Philadelphia. He joins a long list of
fall guys for Devils GM-for-life, Lou Lamoriello. Lemaire’s departure
means the Devils have now been through an incredible six coaches since
last winning the Cup in 2003 – one of them being Lou himself.

The question now is, when will Lamoriello take a good look in the
mirror? When will Lamoriello ever come out and say, “You know what,
folks, this one is on me.” Lamoriello is only too happy to take all the
credit when things go well — and there is no doubt that a lot of
things have gone very well for the Devils under his watch.

Quick note – I’m not certain this is a case of Lamoriello blaming
Lemaire for anything. By all accounts, Lemaire just didn’t have it in
him to continue and last season Brent Sutter ‘tricked’ the Devils before
moving on to Calgary.

Eric
Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail
says that it’s tough to see
Lamaire go, but perhaps it’s for the best.

Lemaire was something of an innovator as a coach –
because of his particular attention to defensive hockey, something borne
of his own playing experience and the fact that he started his coaching
career in Switzerland. Sadly, when the Devils won that year, it also
introduced the dreaded term ‘neutral zone trap’ into the popular hockey
lexicon. Given how the NHL is a copycat league, it became the de
rigueur style for the better part of a decade.

What is wrong with the Kings?

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, front, of Slovenia, picks up a loose puck as Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog, of Sweden, pursues in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP
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The first year of Anze Kopitar‘s $80 million contract extension may end up being the worst year of his NHL career.

In a full 82-game season, the 29-year-old center has never put up fewer than 61 points. But with just six goals and 27 assists in 54 games, Kopitar, the reigning Selke Trophy recipient, is on pace for only 46 points in 2016-17.

Last night, Kopitar was held pointless for a fourth straight game as the Kings fell, 4-1, to the Bruins at Staples Center.

“Can’t chase the lead,” said head coach Darryl Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “Early goal, just a constant theme. Chase the lead. Need some production out of the top end of your lineup to overcome that.”

With the loss, the Kings found themselves four points back of the second wild-card spot with only one game in hand on Calgary.

Sutter was asked if there was one thing that concerned him above anything else.

“Yep,” he said. “Production from the top end. Absolutely, 100 percent.”

Given Jeff Carter has scored more than his share of goals (29), the coach was clearly talking mostly about Kopitar.

That being said, Marian Gaborik only has six goals himself, and that’s a problem for Kopitar because the Kings, after losing Justin Williams and Milan Lucic in the last two years, aren’t exactly swimming in high-scoring wingers.

Gaborik, who turned 35 just a few days ago, is signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $4.875 million. Combine that with Dustin Brown, 32, being signed through 2021-22 for a cap hit of $5.875 million and the Kings have over $10 million in cap space tied up in two aging wingers who aren’t providing many goals.

So, that’ll be the challenge for GM Dean Lombardi going forward. It just remains to be seen if there’s a solution.

The Kings host Anaheim tomorrow.

Report: Berglund, St. Louis talking contract extension

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues in action in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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These are busy times for Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

In addition to dealing with the Kevin Shattenkirk situation, Armstrong has to address the future of Patrik Berglund, the 28-year-old center that, like Shattenkirk, is a pending UFA.

Here’s the latest, from the Post-Dispatch:

The club is believed to be in talks with the center and Berglund told the Post-Dispatch that there is is mutual interest from both sides on an extension. His agent, Peter Wallen, did not return a message and Armstrong was unavailable.

“I would like to still be a Blue,” Berglund said Monday, before the Blues broke for their five-day bye. “I think everybody in here and upstairs knows that I want to be a Blue, too.”

Berglund has spent his entire nine-year career in St. Louis, emerging as versatile forward that can play the middle or wing. He’s also found the back of the net 17 times this season, and is flirting with matching or surpassing the career-high 22 he scored back in ’10-11.

As mentioned above, Berglund’s in the last of a three-year, $11.1 million contract that pays $3.7 million annually. With signals of a Shattenkirk trade getting stronger, it’s reasonable to think Berglund will be kept around.

Simply put, the Blues might be unable to handle more significant roster turnover. The club has moved on from the likes of Barret Jackman, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott in recent years, and lost some of its identity in the process.

Welcome Drew Stafford to the trade rumor mill

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three
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Another name to add to the pile as we gear up for next Wednesday’s trade deadline:

Drew Stafford.

Stafford, the 31-year-old winger that’s spent the two-and-a-half seasons in Winnipeg, has reportedly been the subject of trade calls, per ESPN.

Stafford’s had an injury-plagued campaign, limited to just 39 games due to upper- and lower-body injuries, yet still managed to rack up 12 points while averaging just over 13 minutes per night.

It’s easy to see why teams are making calls.

Stafford has history as a productive goalscoring winger, finding the back of the net 21 times last season (with a career-high of 31 back in ’10-11). He’s got enough ability to play up and down the lineup and, what’s more, he’s about as pure a rental as they come — Stafford’s a pending UFA, in the last of a two-year deal that pays $4.35 million annually.

What’s more, the Jets are one of those “are they buyers or are they sellers?” teams.

Winnipeg is only four points back of Calgary for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but would need to leap two teams — the Flames and the Kings — to get there.

The Jets have also played 63 games, to Calgary’s 61 and Los Angeles’ 60.

In the end, Stafford’s contractual situation and the team’s glut of forwards could see him move along. In addition to all the youngsters Winnipeg already has up front, the likes of ’15 first-rounders Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic are still looking to make the leap.

Preds’ Forsberg becomes first player since 2010 to score back-to-back hat tricks

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Remember when Predators forward Filip Forsberg couldn’t buy a goal at the beginning of the season? Yea, neither do we.

It may be hard to believe, but Forsberg didn’t find the back of the net until the 14th game of the 2016-17 season. He didn’t score his second until game no. 19. But the 22-year-old has really put it together.

On Tuesday night, he scored three goals in a 6-5 OT loss to the Calgary Flames and he netted a second hat trick in two games in Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche (you can watch his latest hat trick by clicking the video at the top of the page).

It’s the first time in Predators history that a player has back-to-back three-goal games and he’s the first player in the league to do it since Canucks forward Alex Burrows in 2010.

Despite his slow start, the two hat tricks now put him on pace to hit the 30-goal mark for the second consecutive year, which is really impressive.

“It’s tough to explain,” Forsberg said, per NHL.com. “Sometimes it feels great but you don’t score, and sometimes you feel bad but you still score. Tonight was a lot of fun.

“I think I always felt a responsibility, and I think that goes for every player in this locker room. Everyone wants to contribute and help the team win. Obviously I can’t expect myself to score a hat trick every game, but I just try to work hard and if I can score goals, I’ll take that as well.”

Not only has he been better, but the whole team is showing that the slow start they endured in the first few weeks of the season was just a fluke.

The Predators are comfortably sitting in a playoff spot (if that even exists in today’s NHL) with 67 points in 60 games, which puts them in the first Wild Card position. They’re one point ahead of Calgary with a game in hand and five points ahead of Los Angeles, who’s on the outside looking in.

Nashville is also neck-and-neck with the St. Louis Blues for third in the Central Division. Both teams have the same number of games played and points, but the Blues have three more regulation/overtime victories.