After the shock of a first-round playoff exit, the Devils were dealt another surprise with Monday’s announcement that Jacques Lemaire had retired from coaching.
“It’s kind of disappointing a little bit,” Martin Brodeur
said as the players packed up their gear for the summer. “We definitely had a fun season and didn’t see that coming just because of how his enthusiasm was for coaching us. It’s not like you could tell he was not ready for the task or whatever. He gave it everything he had, so it was definitely a little surprising that he made that decision.”
Brodeur led the NHL with 45 wins and nine shutouts. The Devils were among the League’s top teams, capturing the Atlantic Division with 48 wins and 103 points. The feeling around the locker room was that their season, which was closed out in five games by the Philadelphia Flyers, ended too soon.
“Everybody has that feeling,” Brodeur said. “It’s a shock. Shocks are coming by the dozen right now, I guess. We all feel we were better than what happened to us. And definitely, having a coach like him, we were in good hands. It just didn’t work out.”
Brodeur was asked if he expected the team to be broken up after three straight first-round eliminations.
“We’ve won the Atlantic Division four out of the last five years,” he said. “It’s kind of hard for players or fans to ask for much more than that. You’d love to do well in the playoffs, there’s no doubt about that. But you have to get yourself in a position to do well. If you don’t, you’ll never have that success. I think we’re going in the right direction. We have a lot of young, good players that will be dominant and they are now. I don’t feel the direction will change much in the next few years.”
Including Lemaire, the Devils have had five different men behind the bench in the last five seasons: Larry Robinson, general manager Lou Lamoriello, Claude Julien, and Brent Sutter, who departed in 2009 after two years.
A new coach will mean new adjustments.
“It’s always difficult,” Jamie Langenbrunner said. “You’re trying to figure things out, what they’re looking for and what they want. The main message has been the same with Lou being the constant there. But I definitely think there’s a feeling out process every year.”
Langenbrunner continued: “We’ll wait and see what’s going to happen. I’m sure there’s decisions that will have to be made. When you’re not successful, changes are going to be made.”