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.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?