Tag: Jacques Lemaire

Ilya Kovalchuk

Best and worst sweaters of all-time: New Jersey Devils

The Devils haven’t always been the entertaining team on the ice, but they’ve been winners. That sort of attitude applies to their sweaters over the years, as they haven’t always been entertaining or controversial but they’ve always been great. From guys like Pat Verbeek and Chris Terreri to Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur, and Ilya Kovalchuk they’ve had the names but the same look on the ice. But what about those sweaters?

Best: Well, there’s not a lot of room for error here when examining the Devils’ sweaters of the past. They’ve had two different types of sweaters and, depending on your preference in colors that determines which way things fall here. Given that I’m just north of 30 years-old and spent my formative years watching hockey in the 80s and early 90s… I’m a big fan of the “Christmas” color jerseys the team adopted from the moment they arrived in New Jersey in 1982 that lasted until black replaced green in 1992.

Worst: The Devils haven’t done anything egregious at all in their history and I’m not about to call anything they’ve done to be the “worst” of anything. Some of you might take issue with the old days wearing green and red, but those sweaters still looked nice. Switching to black, while predictable in the early 90’s, made a ton of sense considering they’re named the Devils. After all, what colors do you see devils wearing in artistic representations most often? Yup.

Old-timey favorite: The Devils weren’t always in New Jersey. They were born originally in Kansas City as the Scouts and moved to Denver to become the Rockies. Of those previous iterations, the Kansas City Scouts sweater from 1974 is iconic for its wild striping, funky colors, and logo that paid homage to a Kansas City landmark and history as a western outpost.

Assessment: The Devils are about as boring with their sweaters as they were back in the mid-90s under Jacques Lemaire and the neutral zone trap.  The difference here is that people reflect upon the Devils sweaters and its interlocking “NJ” with love and admiration. After all, it was featured prominently in the film “Clerks” and if you don’t love “Clerks” you’re either not a child of the 90s or Kevin Smith himself. The Devils have avoided the third jersey plague and they’ve even brought back the green and red jerseys once a year for St. Patrick’s Day. What’s not to appreciate about that?

Minnesota’s offseason transformation necessary for Wild culture change

Chuck Fletcher, Mike Yeo

When the Minnesota Wild take the ice for their first game of the season on October 8 at home against Columbus, it’s going to be a night that will demand the fans buy a program to know just who they’re watching on the ice. Thanks to three separate deals with the Sharks as well as some free agency mixing, matching, and cutting the Wild are going to have a distinctly different look next season.

Gone is coach Todd Richards (fired) and players like Cam Barker (buyout), Jose Theodore (signed in Florida), and Antti Miettinen (KHL) while James Sheppard, Brent Burns, and Martin Havlat were all traded to San Jose. When you file away all those players and bring in the likes of Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Darroll Powe, and Mike Lundin you’ve got the makings of what will be a virtually brand new team in St. Paul… And the Wild needed that change desperately.

Gone are the “tweener” players like Miettinen and Sheppard. They were guys who you weren’t sure if they were defensive forwards trapped in a skilled players body or vice versa. The same applies for Barker as a defenseman. Barker was brought in in what may turn out to be one of GM Chuck Fletcher’s more infamous trades which saw him send former first round pick Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson to Chicago for the once promising Barker.

At the time the deal was done, it seemed it would be a winner for the Wild as Barker showed tremendous upside in Chicago, but his Wild career was a series of mistakes and poor plays that saw him turn into a guy that former coach Todd Richards couldn’t trust on the ice. Barker’s time in Minnesota went so poor the team bought him out.

Sheppard’s departure was like the gift to those who were excited to see former GM Doug Risebrough get the boot two years ago. Sheppard represented one of many failed draft picks under Risebrough’s leadership and for the guys at Hockey Wilderness, Sheppard’s departure is a major relief as Bryan Reynolds expresses quite clearly.

As for the Wild, the poster boy of the old regime is gone. The days of poor drafting and piss poor development look to be behind the franchise, and Sheppard’s departure is the perfect symbolic end to that era. There were bigger busts in the draft, to be sure, but none were as long and as painful to watch unfold as James Sheppard. The fault for that is shared, the end result now squarely on his shoulders.

All-in-all, a great trade for the Wild, one I never would have predicted in a million years. Chuck Fletcher deserves a nomination for fleecing of the year, if only because he got something, anything, in exchange for one of the biggest flops in team history.What it means for the Sharks is up to their team and their fans to debate. I don’t get it, but I’m not an NHL GM for a reason.

With those guys out and the new blood in, roles are more clearly defined on the team. Heatley and Setoguchi are there to generate offense and score tons of goals for the Wild. They’re there the sort of players they haven’t had since Marian Gaborik left town as a free agent.

Powe is there to be a checking line force with Cal Clutterbuck and hit everyone in sight. Powe’s eventual work on the penalty kill will have him earning praise all over Minnesota. Lundin is getting a shot to get more minutes on the blue line and show how well he can fit in as a two-way blue liner. The high hopes that Barker failed to bring will be balanced out by Lundin’s steadier presence.

Making the team roles more defined was a necessary move in Minnesota. When you look at the Wild roster the last couple of years, you see what they’ve had and wonder how they were able to throw it all together to win any games. Throwing essentially four lines of the same sorts of players at opponents works fine when your system is clearly defined (see: Jacques Lemaire) but under Richards it just didn’t work right and the team faltered.

If new coach Mike Yeo can get the team focused and turn them into a better attacking squad with a tough team defense, the Wild have the opportunity to do something they haven’t done since 2007-2008: Make the playoffs.

Devils finally land a coach, hire former Panthers head man Peter DeBoer

Peter DeBoer

All summer there was one head coaching job waiting to be filled in New Jersey to work for GM Lou Lamoriello and find a way to bring the Devils back to the playoffs after a brutal season last year that saw them fail too often to recover. With Ilya Kovalchuk leading the way and Zach Parise needing to be re-signed and healthy after missing most of last season with a knee injury, pressure is high in Jersey to get things back to normal.

The Devils opted to go away from seemingly obvious potential coaches in Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien and hired former Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer to be their new bench boss. In his three years with the Panthers, DeBoer went 103-107-36 and never led the Panthers to the playoffs. His best season was his first one back in 2008-2009 where the Panthers went 41-30-11 finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference tied with Montreal with 93 points and missed the playoffs thanks to not having the tiebreaker with the Habs.

That Panthers team had little scoring with just two players with 60+ points and had stellar goaltending from Tomas Vokoun. Goaltending and tricky defense did that team well and DeBoer will bring that kind of teaching to New Jersey where he’ll have more talent all around and an aging future Hall of Fame goalie in Martin Brodeur. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello sees a lot in DeBoer that he likes and he’s been watching him for a long time.

“Peter DeBoer is an individual who I have watched coach over the past two decades at the junior, international, and professional levels.  His teams have always been well-prepared and disciplined, while maximizing their effort each and every night.” said Lamoriello.  “I am looking forward to working with him.”

At 43 DeBoer is a young guy to be leading a team that’s got a healthy mix of veterans and youth. He has some familiarity with at least one guy in David Clarkson having coached him in junior hockey and he’s a guy the Devils are hoping evolves into more of a two-way threat at right wing.

Where DeBoer will have his work cut out for him is keeping Kovalchuk and Parise balanced and scoring. Premiere talent like those two cannot struggle for stretches the way they did under John MacLean last year. He’ll also have to find a way to command the room the way Jacques Lemaire could, something most Devils coaches have struggled in doing over the last few years.

If DeBoer struggles, Lamoriello won’t hesitate to make a change if it’s needed as we’ve seen in the past. Hell, if things are even going well Lamoriello will make a move. Here’s to hoping that DeBoer is ready to potentially coach on eggshells. The challenge is a big one and the stress is high, especially when trying to get  the Devils back to the playoffs.

Yet again: Jacques Lemaire will not be the Devils coach next year

Jacques Lemaire

When the season ended, there were plenty of teams who were looking to replace their head coaches. It’s interesting that the Devils are the only team that had their coach retire; and they’re the only team that is still looking for their head man. Even the Winnipeg Jets, who still had a head coach, have since moved, fired Craig Ramsay, and hired Claude Noel. All while the Devils continue to take their time and still don’t have a head coach.

As time goes on, there have been some questions whether Jacques Lemaire may consider a return to New Jersey for yet another go-around.  After all, the Devils looked like a completely different team when Lemaire took over for the fired John MacLean in December last season.  Tom Gulitti spoke to Lemaire about the Devils head coaching position on NorthJersey.com—and it certainly doesn’t sound like he’ll be coming back anytime soon.

““I’m waiting for Lou to make his decision,” Lemaire told me via phone this afternoon. “I’m excited like the fans, I guess, to find out who it’s going to be.”

Lemaire said he has no idea who it will be, but knows for certain who it won’t be.

“It’s not going to be me,” he said.”

That is the 900th denial from Lemaire for those keeping track at home. Unfortunately, until Lou Lamoriello and the Devils find a man to replace him behind the bench, he’ll have to keep enduring the same speculation. Since he denied there was any chance of returning, the attention turned to former head coach Larry Robinson for a day. Robinson has been in town running the prospects camp this week for the Devils, but as Lamoriello said that he’s not a candidate at this time. Going further, he said that he’s not “going to get into who is or who isn’t a candidate.” For fans who want to speculate, he’s not really giving them much to work with.

Over the summer, a few names have been rumored for the Devils coaching vacancy. Guy Carbonneau’s name came up when he resigned from his positions with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Michel Therrien was the reported front-runner a week ago and Ken Hitchcock has been linked to the position since the day it became available. But as Lamoriello has said, he won’t comment on an potential candidates for the head coaching position.

One the one hand, it doesn’t seem like there’s any rush to name a coach anytime soon. The prospect camp is the only big event between the draft and training camp—and Robinson has already taken the lead. The draft was run by Lamoriello in June and the summer is just a time for preparation. From an organizational standpoint, the only real deadline they’re facing is training camp in September. But from an pragmatic perspective, this isn’t something any team would want to drag on for the entire offseason. The new coach will want to have his say for any potential assistant coaches as well as some time to get acclimated to his new lineup. There’s no rush—but sooner they decide on coach, the better.

All we know for sure is that Jacques Lemaire won’t be that man.

Guy Carbonneau: Your latest rumored Devils head coaching target

New Jersey Devils Introduce John MacLean As Head Coach

There aren’t a whole lot of NHL head coaching vacancies left right now. Just ask hot coaching prospect turned Milwaukee Admirals head coach Kirk Muller about that.

One potential job is the New Jersey Devils’ head coaching spot, which opened up once again after Jacques Lemaire rode off into the (trap-free?) sunset. There are plenty of would-be worthy candidates, especially guys who lean in the direction of suffocating defense. Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien are two examples of former bench bosses whose names have been thrown around, although hiring them would buck the fresh-faced trend of hiring either an assistant coach for a successful NHL team or a head coach of a red-hot minor league squad.

Guy Carbonneau might fit the bill in a couple ways. He was the head coach and co-owner of Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL, although he mysteriously stepped down from the coaching post this week. Carbonneau adds check marks in major categories such as “defensive minded” (many wonder if he deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for the world-class defense he played during his NHL days) and “Montreal Canadiens product.” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has a clear tendency to poach coaches who have Habs ties; the team hired Pat Burns, Claude Julien, Larry Robinson and Lemaire in Lou’s time as the general manager.

With all that in mind, it makes a lot of sense that people are spreading rumors of Carbonneau becoming the new New Jersey bench boss. While that might eventually be the case, Carbonneau apparently denied that rumor during an interview on the radio show NHL Home Ice.

What does that mean? We will just have to wait and see if Carbonneau ends up being the man in New Jersey. Lamoriello might seem to have a pattern when it comes to hiring Montreal products, but just about all the other decisions he makes about coaches seem to be wildly unpredictable.