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Lemaire ready for second run with Devils

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Lemaire returns to Devils bench, where he will once again work with Brian Rolston (top right). – There was a decidedly throwback feel at Prudential Center on Monday.

In the morning, Scott Stevens, John MacLean, Tommy Albelin, Sergei Brylin and Chris Terreri were on the ice helping to lead the Devils' prospects through the first day of rookie camp. All five players were members of the club's first Stanley Cup title in 1995.

By the afternoon, Devils' President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello had announced that Jacques Lemaire, who coached the team to that championship, would be taking over behind the bench for the 2009-10 season.

Ex-Devils say Lemaire good for the team on Lemaire's return
"This was something that came about over a period of time, and certainly came to a conclusion over the weekend," Lamoriello said. "I couldn't be more excited that Jacques will be taking over the reins of our team."

Mario Tremblay, the former Montreal Canadien who worked under Lemaire during his nine-year stint with the Minnesota Wild, was tapped as an assistant coach. Albelin, entering his second season as an assistant, and Jacques Caron, the club's longtime goaltending coach, round out Lemaire's staff.

MacLean, in his eighth season with the Devils' coaching staff, was named the head coach of New Jersey's AHL affiliate in Lowell. Kevin Dean was retained for a fourth season as a Lowell assistant, while Terreri will serve as goaltending coach.

Lamoriello also announced that Stevens will be taking a more active role in both New Jersey and Lowell.

Lemaire stepped down as the head coach of the Wild at the end of last season, but said Monday that the excitement of this year's playoffs made it hard for him to walk away from the game. Lamoriello contacted him about the opening before last month's Entry Draft.

"I never did close the door on coaching, I just said that my time in Minnesota was over," Lemaire said. "It (was) time to go on and do something else. I watched the playoffs, and heard a lot of ex-coaches say it's really hard to get out of this because we love the game and it's exciting and it's fun – that's what I got from watching the playoffs. I said, well, I might go back.

Lemaire compiled a 293-255-108 (.529) mark in 656 games behind Minnesota’s bench. In 2002-03, he led the Wild to the Western Conference Finals while capturing his second career Jack Adams Award as the
league’s top coach.
"When Lou called me, I was excited, especially because it's a great organization with great people working there. The organization is going in the right direction and being a part of this is really exciting for me."

Lemaire takes over for Brent Sutter, who resigned as head coach on June 9. Familiarity with the organization's expectations were a key part of Lemaire's decision to return.

"I like to work for a person that I know well, and I think I know Lou very well," he said. "I know how he works, what he wants, what he likes and what he dislikes."

Lemaire, 63, is the winningest coach in Devils history. He first joined the club in 1993-94 – when New Jersey came within a goal of its first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals – and earned Jack Adams honors that season as the NHL's top coach.

The Lemaire-led Devils thrived under a defensive system, and a year later, secured their first championship with a sweep of heavily favored Detroit. But that was then.

"At the time, we had more of a defensive crew and you were teaching more defense than offense because you felt you could win games," he said. "Now, with time and the type of players that we have, there's a look for offense, there's a look for trying to create more. I guess every coach is pretty much the same: we're trying to get the best game possible."

Lemaire stepped down in May 1998 after leading the Devils to the East's best record in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

"I had a great time here in New Jersey in the nineties, I have great memories, and now I'll try to get some more," he said.

Lemaire will inherit a group led by the goaltending of Martin Brodeur and the scoring of Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and captain Jamie Langenbrunner. The Devils won a franchise-record 51 games in 2008-09, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight year.

"You look at the team, and it's very stable," Lemaire said. "You look at the past years, and the team has done pretty well. I know in the playoffs the last few years, it's been a little tougher, but that will be a goal that the whole coaching staff will have."

Parise had a breakout 2008-09 campaign and set career highs with 45 goals and 94 points. Don't expect Lemaire to force a checking role upon his snipers. Look instead for a defensive skater to balance a line with a top scorer, he said.

"I'm not the coach that will stop any of the guys from doing what they're good at and what they excel in," he said.

Lemaire won eight Cups as a player with Montreal and has his sights on bringing hockey's Holy Grail back to the Garden State. He cautions that 29 other teams have the same hope for the upcoming campaign.

"There's not a lot of things that you still want as a coach when you've been involved for 15 years," he said. "When you're looking at a team, you want to have a chance to win the Cup, there's no doubt about that."

"I want to be a part of this," he continued, "and if there's a chance I would love to get another one." 
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