Lemaire Returns to Devils
July 14, 2009 by Big Tony
After a shocking and disappointing first round exit at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes the New Jersey Devils were searching for a coach after Brent Sutter resigned. New Jersey’s search has come to an end and the name will be familiar to Devils fans everywhere as Jacques Lemaire was rehired after first leaving the team in 1998. Lemaire was there for the beginning of the New Jersey glory days leading them to their first Stanley Cup title in 1995 which came about by perfecting the neutral zone trap which in a lot of ways contributed to the changes in the rules since the NHL’s return from the lockout of 2004-05. Although New Jersey later won to Cups without Lemaire (2000 and 2003) they have not returned to the winner circle since then despite a fair amount of regular season success.
I think it is unlikely that Jacques Lemaire will be able to push New Jersey back over the top because of how much the game has changed. Although the neutral zone trap is still an effective strategy to winning a lot of games in order to win a championship you need a balance of great defense and scoring. With the changes made to the game allowing it to open up more (less clutching and grabbing) it hinders part of what yielded the immense success of the Devils in the mid 1990s and pre-lockout portion of the new millennium. Having a goaltender like Martin Brodeur certainly makes up for a lot of shortcomings but it only pushes New Jersey so far in the right direction but not quite over the top. The Devils have not made any big ticket off-season acquisitions and if they want to contend for the Stanley Cup they will probably need to get another big scorer to go along with Zach Parise’s 45 goals and 94 overall points. Other players like Patrick Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner are very good players but they are not top scoring forwards and in my judgment unless one of those guys steps up or the Devils get another big-time scorer, Jacques Lemaire will not be able to push New Jersey over the top.