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Lemaire doesn't rule out return next season

by Arpon Basu /
MONTREAL -- Jacques Lemaire has been asked repeatedly if he would consider coming back for another season behind the New Jersey Devils bench, and as recently as two weeks ago in Detroit he flat out rejected the scenario.

But back in his native Montreal, and speaking in his mother tongue of French, Lemaire appeared to leave the door open a tiny bit when addressing his coaching future.

"We'll see about next year," Lemaire began, speaking to a handful of French reporters before his Devils took on the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday afternoon at the Bell Centre. "For now, I just want to finish the season as strong as we can and try to give these guys some confidence so that they can show what they can do."

A follow-up question was that if he was still having fun, and the team is showing signs of going well, then would Lemaire say no to a request to return?

"I don't want to answer that question right now," he simply said.

When asked why he came back to begin with, Lemaire said it was out of respect or an old friend, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

"He called and said he needed my help," Lemaire said. "So I said I'd give him a hand."

One thing is certain, Lemaire is most definitely having fun watching the renaissance of a Devils team expected by many to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but which spiraled to the League basement under rookie coach John MacLean.

"When I'm in it, I love it," Lemaire said of the grind of coaching.

When asked if he loved not being in it just as much, Lemaire replied with a laugh, "I love that too."

Lemaire took over the Devils on Dec. 23, and after losing seven of their first eight games under his watch New Jersey had gone 8-1-2 heading into Sunday afternoon’s showdown in Montreal.

"They dug a hole, then they lost confidence," Lemaire said of the Devils horrid 10-29-2 start to the season. "When you have no confidence you can't win games. Everybody lost confidence, the forwards, the defense, the goaltending. So it was a question of building that confidence back up."

Star goaltender Martin Brodeur, who admits he was affected by the lack of confidence Lemaire was talking about, said he would love to have his coach back again next season.

"I hope he stays," Brodeur said. "I think everyone appreciates the attention to detail he brings to our team. It really helps us to be more competitive than it was before."

So has Brodeur begun a campaign to convince Lemaire to return for one more season?

"No. Jacques is Jacques," Brodeur said with a laugh. "I think the people who've known him a long time know that there’s no real point in trying to talk him into something."

Despite the futility of it, Lamoriello will surely at least give it a shot.

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