Jacques Lemaire

Jacques Lemaire won’t return to Devils bench next year, heads for retirement instead

Jacques Lemaire will always be a legend in New Jersey. He brought the team their first Stanley Cup in 1995 and he rescued their season this year from the dumpster after John MacLean couldn’t put the team together.

When Lou Lamoriello put the call into Lemaire after firing MacLean, it looked like Lemaire was coming in to just mop up a mess of a situation. Instead he helped put some discipline into the Devils play and rallied them out of the NHL basement and made a run at the playoffs before ultimately falling short. With the Devils season over, many wondered and hoped that Lemaire might want to do it one more time and return behind the bench next season. Lemaire, instead, will head back into retirement rather than coach one more season in New Jersey.

Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice gets the parting words from the man responsible for turning the Devils into a consistent winner. As it turns out, Lemaire feels he’s getting just a bit too old for this stuff.

He again cited his age and fatigue as the reasons. Lemaire will remain in the organization as a special assignment coach – the same role he held at the start of the season.

“It demands a lot,” Lemaire said of coaching. “I want to enjoy life. I want to enjoy the family.”

Lemaire also retired from coaching after the Devils’ first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia last season. He came out of retirement to replace the fired John MacLean on Dec. 23.
The Devils went 29-17-3 under Lemaire after going just 9-22-2 in 33 games under MacLean.

“I thought that I did make the right decision last year,” Lemaire said. “I’m happy I took the job for the rest of the season. I had fun. It was a huge challenge for me. I thought the guys responded well. The only regrets I have is not making the playoffs.”

Lemaire won’t often be remembered warmly by fans of teams not named the Devils or Wild. Lemaire’s strict defensive brand of hockey is often credited as the reason why the NHL got boring in the mid-90s on through until the lockout in 2004. When the Devils beat the high-powered Red Wings in 1995 for the Stanley Cup, many teams were eager to adopt Lemaire’s brand of hockey to help them keep up with the NHL powerhouses.

The truth on Lemaire is that he’s one of the best coaches to be a part of the NHL and he’s always been a reporter’s dream for his candid and honest take on the game. Fans might hate the style of hockey he taught, but the man is genuine.

As for what the Devils will do now to find a new head coach, the intrigue is fascinating. Some suggest that Canadiens assistant coach and former Devils player Kirk Muller will get a call from Devils GM Lou Lamoriello but I’d suspect that going with another guy that doesn’t have NHL head coaching pedigree might not be such a warm idea after what went down with MacLean this year. Former NHL bench bosses Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien also might get some serious consideration as well as recently fired Panthers coach Pete DeBoer.

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…