NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -The energy is gone, so Jacques Lemaire is walking away from coaching.
Just four days after the New Jersey Devils were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the third straight year, the 64-year-old Lemaire made the surprising announcement Monday .
"It's tough to leave what you like, but it's a decision that I made," he said.
Lemaire said he thought about retiring several times this season and that the loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games had nothing to do with his decision. He relayed it to Devils president Lou Lamoriello over the past 24 hours.
"It's not the team, it is not the result or the lack of result we had in the playoffs," a glassy-eyed Lemaire said. "It's not that at all. It's the end of the line. I'll be 65. It's just time."
Lemaire had a hard time telling the coaching staff he was leaving and he was only able to get a few words out to the players before he could not go on. Lamoriello had to step in and relay the news.
Lamoriello said Lemaire, who made the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984 for his playing career, will stay with the Devils in a role yet to be determined. Lamoriello said he has not thought about a replacement.
"I didn't see that coming," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "I think Jacques has a lot of passion for the game and he showed it all throughout the year and the playoffs, and I think that drive was there. It seems to be there, but he knows it better than anybody and you have to accept what he wants to do."
Whoever gets the job will be the Devils' third head coach in as many years. Brent Sutter resigned after two seasons last year to be closer to his home in western Canada. He eventually became coach of the Calgary Flames.
Lamoriello then turned to Lemaire, who led the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995. He had stepped down as Minnesota Wild coach after last season, but his former boss persuaded him to come to New Jersey for a second stint as coach.
Lemaire coached 16 seasons in the NHL with Montreal, New Jersey and Minnesota, posting a 588-441 won-lost record. His teams also played 124 ties and lost 60 games in overtime or shootouts.
He won the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach in 1994 and 2003. This past winter, he was an assistant on Canada's gold medal-winning team at the Vancouver Olympics.
The Devils won the Atlantic Division this past season with a 48-27-7 record, making them the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, they were clearly outplayed in the playoffs by the seventh-seeded Flyers, who beat them nine of 11 games this season.