Tag: Jacques Lemaire

Mike Yeo

Yeo will have Wild more aggressive, hates ‘dump-and-chase’ label


Many fans hold the belief that the Minnesota Wild are still the stodgy, boring dump-and-chase team Jacques Lemaire once coached.

Current Wild coach Mike Yeo is getting pretty tired of that label as he tells Michael Russo of The Star Tribune.

“I hate that people think that we’re a dump-and-chase team,” Yeo says. “It’s completely false. I count it as a turnover. If we dump the puck in and the goalie touches the puck, that’s a turnover for me.”

What does he see the Wild as instead? An aggressive and exciting one and one that’s going to force teams to turn the puck over to them. More from Russo:

“Our fans will really enjoy this. We’re going to be more aggressive off the rush. We want to be more of a puck possession team, so it’s as simple as asking, ‘Who gets the puck after you have it?’”

Possessing the puck with guys like Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Zach Parise, and Mikko Koivu makes accomplishing that a lot easier. For Yeo, it might be easier to make that happen than it is to shake off the memories (nightmares?) of how ugly hockey used to look in St. Paul.

PHT Morning Skate: Where the Kings are really happy they never traded Dustin Brown

Dustin Brown

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Imagine where the L.A. Kings would be without Dustin Brown. They might be sitting at home already. (OC Register)

St. Louis is left to wonder if having Jaroslav Halak to fall back on might’ve helped. Unless he was scoring goals, the answer is probably “no.” (Post-Dispatch)

After avoiding punishment for hitting Dan Girardi, Mike Zeisberger says Alex Ovechkin is on a short leash. (Toronto Sun)

The Flyers are having a hard time supporting Ilya Bryzgalov. That’s one way to look at it. (CSNPhilly.com)

Claude Giroux says he’s not a dirty player, but that might not help prevent him from being suspended. (Toronto Sun)

Meanwhile, Peter DeBoer is not happy at all about Giroux’s hit on Dainius Zubrus. (CSNPhilly.com)

The Devils are waiting it out to see if any action will be taken. (The Star-Ledger)

Is there finally a deal done to keep the Coyotes in Arizona with Greg Jamison? FINALLY? We’ll see. (Phoenix Business Journal)

Big change could be on the way for the Bruins this summer with so many free agents on the roster. (CSNNE.com)

Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette wants to see the Canadiens hire a former Hab to coach the team. His name? Jacques Lemaire. (Montreal Gazette)

Peter Regin is re-signed in Ottawa and… It might be best to keep him low on the depth chart. (Senators Extra)

Will Ilya Kovalchuk learn to ‘trust’ Peter DeBoer?

Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Oates

This might be a case of oversimplification, but it seemed like a light switch went on when the New Jersey Devils changed coaches last season. The team went from cellar dwellers to a squad on a scary hot streak toward playoff relevance when John MacLean made way for Jacques Lemaire, even if they still fell short of the postseason.

The most dramatic improvement could be seen in the play of Ilya Kovalchuk. The $100 million winger scored 23 of his 31 goals and 42 of his 60 points once Lemaire took over after clearly clashing with MacLean, who even benched him for a game. (That decision might have been the hockey version of “When keeping it real goes wrong.”)

Naturally, the unavoidable question for new Devils coach Peter DeBoer is: can he reach Kovalchuk? It’s way, way too early to jump to any conclusions, but the first game didn’t go too well. The Philadelphia Flyers stomped the Devils 3-0 and Kovalchuk was on the ice for all three goals, giving him an ugly -3 rating.

As Kovalchuk told Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger before the game, it might all come down to trust.

“When the coach trusts you, it changes everything. With Jacques, he had a style where you wanted to play hard for the guy. So that’s what happened. Jacques was one of those guys who would always say the right things at the right time, and he’d put every guy in this room in the right position to be the most successful. That’s why we were playing so well.”

DeBoer has a tough assignment ahead of him: get the most out of a top-heavy group of players who are used to success. DeBoer wasn’t working with much in his stint with the Florida Panthers, but hopefully he knows what to say and do with Kovalchuk and the Devils.

If he doesn’t, it might just cost him his job and keep the Devils out of the playoffs for a second season in a row.

Minnesota welcomes back an old friend: The neutral zone trap

MIke Yeo

When you bring up the neutral zone trap to fans anywhere across the NHL, they immediately start having flashbacks to the days in the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s that saw the New Jersey Devils, among others, gain great success from employing the defense-first style of play.

One team that saw the trap more often than not was the Minnesota Wild. The Wild under coach Jacques Lemaire saw their greatest success with Lemaire in charge and slowing things down in the Western Conference. As things go with the hardcore neutral zone trap, the fans got bored of things and were eager for a change to add some excitement to their hockey-loving lives.

When Todd Richards replaced Lemaire, the trap was altered for the most part but the wins evaporated as well. Now with Mike Yeo in charge in St. Paul, the Wild are hoping to mix in the defensive strength and excitement of scoring goals and he’s going to do it by tweaking the trap. Michael Russo of The Star Tribune breaks the flashback-inducing news from Wild camp.

In the irony of all ironies, it’s Lemaire’s latest version of the aggressive neutral-zone forecheck that Yeo will deploy as the Wild coach and the one he unveiled during his exhibition debut behind the Wild’s bench Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

“Now when I say trap, you’re not going to see a team where five guys are just backing up,” Yeo said. “Like, look at our team last year in Houston. I mean, how many people would say we were a boring team to watch? We trapped in the neutral zone, but we were aggressive in how we did it.”

And before you start freaking out, let’s be clear: The Wild is not returning to the trap. The Wild never stopped trapping.

The facts are simple. While fans bug out about the trap, the trap is employed by every team in the league in some way, shape, or form. The Bruins and Canucks both played variations of it to great, Stanley Cup finals-reaching success. For Wild fans, they’re still scarred from Lemaire’s days of success and boredom and they think that when a coach readily admits he’ll be breaking it out again it’ll be a return to what happened before.

Fortunately for Wild fans and NHL fans all over, teams can’t bog things down the same way as they used to. Obstruction is now a cardinal sin and power plays are too dangerous to hand out like candy. Trying to bog things down like you used to is seen as playing things too safe and in the current NHL, safe is death.

Sure Wild fans are going to be a bit bothered to hear about an old friend like the trap coming back, but with offensive weapons like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in place as well as a healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard and the always steady Mikko Koivu, that defense can turn into offense really fast.

Of course, if things go south expect to see fingers get pointed often at the trap.

Jamie Langenbrunner prepares for a new role with the St. Louis Blues

Jamie Langenbrunner
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Jamie Langenbrunner was playing some of the best hockey of his career in his 30’s, scoring a career-high 69 points in 2008-09 and 61 in 09-10 as he captained the New Jersey Devils. Yet things started going sour at the end of 09-10, as Langenbrunner clashed with Jacques Lemaire.

That funk seemed to carry over into the 2010-11 season, as he managed 14 points in 31 games with the Devils before he finally agreed to waive his no-trade clause and return to the only other team he knew, the Dallas Stars. It didn’t really get a whole lot better for Langenbrunner in Dallas, though, as he scored 18 points in 39 games while seeing reduced time on ice (16:33 minutes per game). The Stars were on the cusp of a playoff spot but couldn’t get the job done against the Minnesota Wild in the last day of the regular season, punctuating a nauseating season for the versatile winger.

Losing just seemed to follow him around like a dark cloud in 2010-11; Jeremy Rutherford points out that the Devils and Stars’ combined record with Langenbrunner on their rosters was 27-44-8. That must have been a bitter pill to swallow for a guy who won two Stanley Cups, one silver medal and made the playoffs in all 13 of his previous full NHL seasons.

The 36 year old winger told Rutherford that he lost some of his passion for hockey last season.

“Jersey had weighed on me so much,” Langenbrunner said. “I’ve always been the type of guy that plays with a lot of emotion and heart, and when you feel like you’re not really part of it, it was tough, especially when you’re the captain. I didn’t enjoy playing hockey anymore, and that is no way to play in this league.”

The Blues are mostly a very young team, with almost every major contributor being in what should be their prime years. Even so, the team decided to add some veteran scoring presences in the form of similar one-year contracts for Langenbrunner and fellow former Devils forward Jason Arnott. When you factor in the addition of defensive forward Scott Nichol, the Blues added three 36 year old forwards during this off-season.

Rather than drawing top line minutes like Langenbrunner often did in New Jersey, Rutherford reports that Langenbrunner will probably play alongside Arnott and Alex Steen on a third line while drawing penalty killing duty.

The Blues don’t expect Langenbrunner to step into a top-six role or line up on the power play. Going into training camp, which begins Sept. 16, he’s slotted for the third line with Alex Steen and Arnott, and he’s scheduled to be on the penalty-killing unit.

“We feel he’s going to provide some work, some defensive responsibility,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “If there’s a guy not performing and all of a sudden he takes that responsibility, that’s what we’re going to find out. That’s the role we’ve discussed.”

At first, I scoffed at the additions of Langenbrunner and Arnott. Yet when you consider the fact that they’ll likely be in third line/support roles, the moves make a lot more sense (especially since St. Louis gave them low-risk one-year deals).

The Blues could be an intriguing dark horse candidate next season, especially if they manage to make an aggressive trade deadline move or two once a new ownership group is hopefully in place. St. Louis must hope that Arnott and Langenbrunner still have some gas left in the tank, but if nothing else, the team’s younger players can lean on two veterans who have seen a lot in their NHL careers.